Impact of Parental Alienation on Children – When two partners go through a separation, there is no question that the party who is most affected by the split is often the children. Although there are many steps that parents can take to mitigate the emotional effects of the separation on their children, unfortunately, in some cases the emotions involved in the process are too high and things get nasty, leaving children to pay the emotional price. Parental alienation is one such phenomenon that can leave lasting effects on children long into adulthood.

What is parental alienation?

Parental alienation is when one parent attempts to turn the child or children against the other parent through manipulation and constant negative criticism. These statements are unfounded and based on resentment held by the alienating parent, not on the actual behaviours of the other adult. Over time, the child begins to feel hate, resentment, or vitriol towards the other parent and completely cuts them off. Symptoms of parental alienation by one parent include constantly framing the other adult as a bad person who doesn’t love the child, restricting visitation, cutting off communication, and unfounded accusations of abuse.

Parental alienation can be considered child abuse due to the emotions and manipulation involved. Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon occurrence, despite the damage that can be felt by victims even well into adulthood. Often confused with parental alienation is parental alienation syndrome, which describes the behaviour of the child towards the rejected parent, and parental alienation disorder.

Impacts into adulthood

As with many forms of child abuse, the impacts of parental alienation behaviour can be felt by adult children long after they have left the abusive situation. Some of the symptoms that are often seen in adults who were impacted by parental alienation in their formative years include:

  • Low self-esteem, motivation, and self-efficacy
  • Mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety
  • Insecure attachment style
  • Trust issues and difficulty developing meaningful relationships with others
  • Perpetuation of alienation behaviours to own children.

Because the effects can be so impactful well into adulthood, even causing victims to participate in parental alienation in turn, it is very important to seek out counselling services to begin to heal from your past and learn to develop healthy coping strategies and attachment styles as a way to stop the unintentional cycle of abuse.

How can counselling help?

The complex feelings that parental alienation causes throughout childhood and into adulthood are often best addressed with the help of a licensed therapist such as the team at Horizon Plymouth. Because parents might not immediately recognize the full extent of their actions on their children, and the ramifications that they can have for the rest of their children’s lives, we feel that it is important to spread education and awareness about what parental alienation is, how long-lasting the effects are, and how to take steps to heal from your past and avoid perpetuating the cycle of abuse.

If you are a parent who is showing early signs of parental alienation, talking with a therapist can help you to understand why you have a tendency towards these behaviours, as well as help you take steps towards building a healthy relationship with your children, despite the negative emotions you may feel towards their other parent. A counsellor can help you by getting to the root of what is causing the behaviours, offering an unbiased, non-judgmental space to explore your feelings, behaviours, and experiences.

If you are a victim of parental alienation or are a parent who would like to take steps towards preventing unintentional parental alienation from occurring, the therapists at Horizon Plymouth can help you build a healthier mental state to support productive relationships. Contact Horizon Plymouth to schedule your initial consultation today.

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