How to identify parental alienation

If parents in New York are divorcing someone who has been diagnosed with a personality disorder, particularly of the narcissistic or borderline type, they may want to be alert for signs of parental alienation. This happens when one parent influences a child and turns the child against the other parent. Alienation can be disruptive to family life and create psychological problems for the child.

The targeted parent may not immediately realize what is happening. The early signs might be the other parent saying the child’s visit must be postponed because of illness or homework. The child might display a sudden shift in behavior and become combative. The parent might stop receiving information from the child’s school or camp, and the child might ask the parent to stop attending extracurricular activities. The child may behave in an entitled way regarding gifts or time and attention from the parent. The child may also use the same denigrating vocabulary that the other parent uses against the targeted parent. However, the child may deny any influence from that parent. The child may also reject the idea of any positive bonding experiences with the targeted parent.

Dealing with parental alienation can be upsetting. However, a parent should not be drawn into conflict with the child or the other parent. The parent should be firm and loving and set consistent boundaries.

Coparenting during and after divorce can be a challenge even in the absence of a personality disorder or parental alienation. If a couple cannot reach an agreement on custody and visitation and must go to court to have a judge decide, a parent might want to talk to an attorney about the best strategy. A judge will base the decision on the best interests of the child. Showing a willingness to cooperate with the other parent often counts in a parent’s favor.

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