Co-parenting following a divorce or separation can already pose considerable challenges. These are compounded when one parent consciously seeks to disrupt the other’s relationship with their child, an occurrence known as parental alienation. However, there are proven strategies that can help navigate such complicated co-parenting dynamics.
First, It is important to understand the phenomenon of parental alienation. Parental alienation is when one parent, the alienator, consciously or unconsciously manipulates a child into rejecting the other parent without legitimate grounds. This act can significantly distress both the child and the targeted parent (Saini, 2021).
You should also encourage transparent communication. Keeping lines of communication open is fundamental. Motivate your child to communicate their feelings freely, even those concerning the alienating parent. This creates an atmosphere where the child feels validated and understood, thereby building trust and respect (Lowenstein, 2010).
Another thing that is important is ensuring parenting consistency. Parenting consistency can offer a sense of stability to children. Predictable routines, rules, and expectations can help mitigate the adverse effects of parental alienation. Despite any resistance faced, consistency underlines your commitment and affection towards your child (Vallerand & Bouchard, 2023).
You should always refrain from negative remarks about the alienating parent Retaliating may seem like the easy way out when faced with baseless criticism, but it’s important not to bad-mouth the alienating parent in the child’s presence. This shows regard for the child’s feelings and might lessen their inner conflict (Verrocchio & Baker, 2015).
Procuring professional aid can be highly advantageous. A mental health professional, like a psychologist, can equip both the parent and child with coping mechanisms and needed support. Legal counsel may also be necessary to address any violation of custody arrangements and safeguard the child’s rights (Darnall, 2011).
Another thing that is not thought about a great amount is prioritizing self-care. Never underestimate the power of self-care. Activities fostering well-being, such as regular exercise or meditation, can offer the emotional resilience needed to traverse this complex situation.
While co-parenting with a parental alienator might seem like an uphill battle, with patience, understanding, and appropriate strategies, maintaining a meaningful, loving bond with your child is attainable.
D’Arienzo Pyschology has psychologists and therapists that can assist you in managing parental alienators and other problems that can arise from divorce, or check out one of our online divorce courses.
Darnall, D. (2011). The psychosocial treatment of parental alienation. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics, 20(3), 479–494.
Lowenstein, L.F. (2010). Parental alienation: How to understand and address parental alienation resulting from acrimonious divorce or separation. Russell House Pub.
Saini, M. (2021). Parental Alienation: The Handbook for Mental Health and Legal Professionals. Charles C Thomas Publisher.
Vallerand, J., & Bouchard, M.A. (2023). Navigating high-conflict divorce and parental alienation: a parent’s guide to effective strategies. Child Welfare League of America.
Verrocchio, M.C., & Baker, A.J.L. (2015). Italian adults’ recall of childhood exposure to parental loyalty conflicts. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 56(7), 506–520.