Self Help Skills

Child Custody Arrangements: 7 Signs of Parental Alienation

Updated: Apr 11

Parental alienation syndrome was first defined by the psychiatrist Richard Gardner in the 1980's. ...but what is Parental alienation syndrome? How can you find out if it's causing a problem in your family dynamic after a divorce? ...and how to you manage family arrangements for separated families?

Separation counselling can help prevent parental alienation Australia
Parental Alienation Syndrome is devastating for everyone.

Child custody rights for fathers, or mothers, can be limited when one parent engages in parental alienation behaviours.


Let's go through seven signs of parental alienation during child custody arrangements.


1. No Sympathy

If a child lacks the ability to sympathise with the parent they're alienated from, it might be one of the signs of parental alienation syndrome.


A child's behaviour might show some signs. This would include them rolling their eyes, or scoffing, whenever you talk about your feelings. Another sign might be not appearing to have any emotional reaction.


Your child might also not seem to feel any guilt when they treat you poorly or otherwise misbehave. Acting up behaviours can be part of parental alienation. They may even feel that you deserve this misbehavior.


That's why family counselling after separation is a good idea. It can help a child understand what's happening with their separated parents and come to terms with it. Contact a family psychologist to see what your options are.


2. Unconditional Support

When the alienation is caused by the actions of one parent, the child will support that parent and their beliefs no matter what. They won't stand to hear any criticism of, or disagreement with, that parent. They won't be able to make impartial judgements on anything that parent says or does.


The child might also develop anxiety symptoms. They might become overly worried about their preferred parent, and talk about their concerns. This is where child anxiety counselling can be helpful.


The child might try to hide feelings from the alienated parent. Denying that they are worried could also be a sign of parental alienation. This is because the child can merge, or develop an enmeshed parental relationship, with the alienating parent.


3. Rejecting Other Family Members

Parental alienation isn't just limited to just one parent. It can cause the child to become alienated to members of your extended family, as well. They may see members of the alienated parents' family as interlopers, or as an extension of that parent. They may be rude to them, or ignore them entirely.


These could include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. It could also extend to family friends. This doesn't necessarily have to be limited to human family members, either. Pets may also become a target for your child's ire.


4. Repeating Language

If the child is getting their feelings of alienation from another parent, they might also start to repeat words or phrases that they've heard that parent use. They may not actually understand the words or phrases that they're using.


The same is true for repeating body language and actions from that parent. Young children's behaviour might include constantly turning away from the alienated parent when they're trying to communicate.


5. Knowing Too Much

Do your children know too much about the details of your divorce and former relationship? Your former spouse may be telling them more than they need to know about your relationship. This might be an attempt to get them on their side of things. This can have a negative impact on your children's relationship with you.


Your ex-spouse may be trying to get your children to choose between you. This could be in terms of attending specific events, that could even affect your child care custody agreement.


You might find the other parent is telling child to keep secrets from you. A parent teaching a child to keep secrets, especially from their parents, can place the child at risk of harm.


Your ex-spouse may not be doing this on purpose, either. They may be struggling themselves with the divorce process, and may be leaning too hard on your children. In that case, you'll want to communicate with them and see if you can better work through separation.


6. Too Many Choices

While it's important children have some choices, there are still things that shouldn't be optional. If one spouse allows the children to skip visits with the other parent, or to not communicate with them, it can be a problem. It is not teaching children about respect. It could also be a violation of custody agreement.


One parent might allow your child to get away with too much. A lack of parental guidance might allow your child to speak about your disparagingly, whether or not you're around. They might allow the child to behave in ways that would have previously got them in trouble.


A parent might even allow a child do to things to make them appear to be a better parent. An example of a parent manipulating child would include the following. If there is something your child has always wanted to do and hasn't been allowed to, they may change their minds. They might otherwise tell your child that you were the one who prevented them from doing it.


If your ex-partner is causing problems with your relationship with your children, you might want to look into parenting counselling. This can help achieve more successful co parenting outcomes. Co parenting for successful kids, will set them up to stay healthy safe and happy.


7. Black and White

Having a black and white view of the situation is another sign of parental alienation. If one parent is always right and the other one parent is always wrong, there's a problem. The lack of nuance shows that the children are becoming increasingly alienated from one parent.


Children's reactions to different events and behaviours may seem over-the-top. This can be a normal part of their emotions during the divorce, but if it continues, it could be a sign of parental alienation.


How to Prevent Parental Alienation

When both parents put the children's interests first, with enough work, you can make sure no one is alienated during child custody arrangements. You just need to work together and with professionals to ensure the process goes smoothly.


Sadly though, parental alienation cannot always be avoided. This is often the case when:

  • One parent has limited insight,

  • Their emotions compromise their ability to make appropriate parenting decisions, or

  • They are unwilling to put the child's interests first.

Such cases are extraordinarily challenging. In such a situation, it is even more important for the alienated parent to seek professional help.


Do you need help with parenting arrangements after separation? Do you need assistance with building positive relationships with children? Do you want to make sure your children are healthy and well-adjusted during your divorce? Book counseling services with iflow Psychology today.


If you, or someone you know, is experiencing difficulty with parenting after separation, support is available. Please contact iflow psychology today or book an appointment. You can book an appointments online, or by calling my friendly admin staff on 02 6061 1144.


iflow psychology offers in-person (face-to-face), telehealth and telephone counselling. We are registered psychologists. We also offer Medicare Rebates when you have a doctors referral and Mental Health Plan. We would love to be part of your journey.




Location Details: iflow psychology is located in Leichhardt Inner West Sydney NSW Australia


Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is always advisable to speak with your treating doctor, health professionals, and legal representatives before making decisions. This is particularly important if you feel you are not coping, have health concerns or have existing mental health or medical conditions.


(c) 2022 Dean Harrison

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