“Nice people don’t necessarily fall in love with nice people.” ― Jonathan Franzen, Freedom

If you have young children that are being unduly influenced to distrust you, commit to showing your face whenever possible. Keep a calendar of their activities and whereabouts: school events; parent-teacher conferences; play dates (even if you aren’t the organizer and aren’t attending); extra-curricular events; doctor appointments; birthday parties; school breaks and trips. Know when report cards come out, and when volunteers are needed at school. Familiarize yourself with their friends and their friends’ families. Get a handle on your children’s lives even when they aren’t living with you so that you can (a) show up whenever it is appropriate (you always belong at school events, for example, but crashing a kid’s birthday party at a private residence–not so much) and (b) so that you are completely fluent in your children’s lifestyles and are able to discuss all aspects of their life with them. Being an expert on your children helps establish trust and credibility that sometimes even the alienator can’t ignore. I’ve seen this approach be successful in breaking through.

Some consequences to the child’s mental health:

  1. Self esteem—these children have come to believe that one of their parents does not love them, is unworthy of their love, and is someone with whom it is unwise to identify.
  2. Corrupted moral compass—they have been encouraged to be disrespectful, ungrateful, entitled, and parentified.
  3. Lack of independence—they have been encouraged to be overly dependent on the alienating parent’s acceptance.
  4. Relapse prevention—they are under constant pressure to behave a certain way in order to avoid the rejection of the alienating parent.
  5. Loss of identity—if it is unsafe to identify with the rejected parent then certain parts of the self identity may become lost as well. The alienating mother or father who denigrates the father or mother for his/her academic abilities will create difficulty for a child embracing their own academic or creative interests and talents.
Credit: By Amy J.L. Baker, PhD, and Katherine Andre, PhD
Credit:Todd Ristorcelli andSarah Kinbar