Parental Alienation: It’s Not Always What You Think

alienation begins

When people think of parental alienation, the image that comes to mind is one of Mom or Dad regularly trash-talking the absent parent in front of his/her offspring.  But that’s not always how it happens.

The process of alienation can begin before a couple separates.  This is one of the reasons I feel so strongly that divorce can be a positive change for a family- that is, as long as Mom and Dad are able to handle their separation in a responsible manner.

Another way that kids are taught to believe one parent is “bad” is through non-verbal signals.  Alienators can send a loud and clear message simply by making a face or turning away in a dismissive manner when a child mentions the other parent.

Transition times present another opportunity for alienators to communicate their feelings.  Imagine Mom acting extremely sad or panicked when Dad picks up the kids for the weekend.  Imagine Dad telling his children that he’s “relieved” they made it home from their mother’s house.  Given such a sendoff or homecoming, how is a child supposed to feel confident loving and visiting both parents?

It’s important to remember that children are extremely sensitive and perceptive.  And although alienation may not always be intentional, it is always painful.  Please don’t forget the lasting impact of the little things, and share this message to raise awareness in others.

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  1. Excellent post Tara. Kids internalize everything we say and do. And children are so naturally wired to be loyal. If they pick up that mom or dad doesn’t like the other parent or a stepparent, it can be such a heavy burden on a child.

    Unless a child is in danger of physical or emotional abuse, the best gift we can give our kids in a co-parenting situation is the gift of unconditional acceptance of the other parent and their home (ie. stepparent, stepsiblings, etc.)

    Great words of wisdom friend. – Heather

    • I could only understand 10% of all that shrill shrieking. What little I could understand was nasty.

      My kids are teenagers now. I will not insult their intelligence by pretending I like their father. They had ringside seats when their father walked out on us, and they know all about why because he kept nothing private during the entire divorce process. They got to see his selfishness and disrespect for themselves, in the way he treated them and in the way he treated me. I provided no editorial comment; there was no need.

      I am not going to unconditionally accept a person who lied to me and cheated on me. He’s dead to me. The children sometimes bring little gems back home with them, like their father saying he can’t pay for things because “Your mother took all my money.” He’s got hundreds of criticisms of me, many of them obvious projections, but I say nothing. The children shrug as if to say, “What can you do?” They can trust him to act solely in his own self interest. He taught them that, not me.

  2. I have to wonder why this father continuously engaged in conflict with his wife. This woman is INSANE yet he didn’t walk away. Could his motive for engaging in conflict be to show the children that mom is irrational?

    You can clearly hear children in the background. Both these parents played a role in this horrendous conflict and he probably could have won custody if he had responded differently to the situation.

  3. I love how she references God at the same time as she is cussing him completely out. I also understand that this is only one side of an ongoing conflict. However, its a shining example of this problem that mostly goes unchecked by media and the legal system (unless its the man who is doing the alienating).

    Great job Tara.

  4. We found a terrific book by Amy J.L. Baker, “I Don’t Want to Choose! How Middle School Kids Can Avoid Choosing One Parent Over the Other.” It is a workbook for the target parent to read with the child and gives 17 specific examples of alienation efforts and what kids can do and how they can think of them. Here is a link to purchase the book:

    There is a companion guide, for parents only, called “Beyond the High Road: Responding to 17 Parental Alienation Strategies without Compromising Your Morals or Harming Your Child.” It is also available for purchase at, but I just found a PDF of it for free at The parent guide gives specific, practical solutions the target parent can do in each situation.

  5. Earlier I posted a video that I think captures the essence of parental alienation and the effects it has on parents and children. Based on feedback from forums like this one, I’ve edited and improved it. I’d be interested in any additional feedback, and comments as to whether videos like this one might serve a purpose. Thanks!

  6. By the way, thanks for all of the comments. Cathy asked the question that I’ve asked myself a thousand times: why didn’t I walk away earlier from somebody so obviously abusive? The answer in part is my religious background, where divorce is heavily frowned upon, and in part my desire not to have my kids grow up in a “broken home.” What I now realize in retrospect is that my home was already broken. I prided myself on enduring the tirades, and appeasing her for the sake of my kids, but in retrospect something needed to be done years ago. That is my greatest regret. My hope with this video is that someone will come across it who is in a similar situation, at the beginning stages, and will learn from my mistakes. My other hope is that every domestic court judge and every guardian ad litem who dismisses parental alienation as fiction will see this video or another one like it, and will at least consider the possibility that PA is a real phenomenon. Lastly, somebody mentioned Dr. Baker. I’ve listened to a number of her video lectures, have seen her television show appearances, and I’m ordering one of her books. She is top notch and a tremendous resource for anyone interested in learning more.

  7. Pingback: What *Is* A “Broken Home”? « Relative Evolutions

  8. Pingback: Healthy Diet and Parental Alienation: How the Two Work Together : Akron Science School

  9. Thanks for doing this blog. It took me a long time to get the courage up, but I finally started my blog last month. I am a writer and what better way to connect. Please check my blog out at Thanks, Caroline

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