Life does not stop after divorce, it begins anew!
Recently I had a reader write to me about Parental Alienation, and how difficult it has been for him to deal with. Parental Alienation, in simple terms, is defined when one, or both, of the divorced parents are behaving in such a way that they are contributing to alienating the other parent from their children.
According to Wikipedia, parental alienation is the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members. It is a distinctive form of psychological abuse, and family violence, towards both the child and the rejected family members that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation or divorce, particularly where legal action is involved.
The literature suggests that alienating behaviors by both parents are common in high-conflict divorces and the main symptom is that the child or children, lack attachment to the alienated parent.
I went through a high conflict divorce, and I tried my best to keep my children out of it. Not because I liked him or even respected him, but because I didn’t want to harm my children. Unfortunately, what the alienating parent fails to understand is that they are harming their child by verbally attacking their father or mother.
Regardless as to how we feel about our exes, they are half of our children and when we put them down in front of our child it hurts them in many ways. It creates anxiety, insecurity, and affects their self-esteem. It makes them question if they can trust you or trust themselves. It makes them out of balance since they are learning to not believe in their own instincts and believe in what their parents are telling them. And, most importantly it adds a degree of unhappiness into their lives that they do not deserve.
When you are having a difficult situation with your ex, be the adult and take it directly to them, do not rehash it to the children or have them be your messenger. I know it’s not easy to do, especially when your anger is mounting, but take it outside or talk to a trusted friend instead. However, if your ex is, or has been abusive to you or your children, then just be truthful without drama.
I have created the Ten Commandments for Divorcing Parents. Not one of us is perfect, so let’s all try to do our best for our children and heed this.
A Divorcing Parent’s Ten Commandments:
1. Thou shalt not put another before the underage child. When we have underage children, they should be our primary focus, not the guy or gal we start dating.
2. Thou shalt not show the children the divorce papers. Yes, I know you will be tempted to show your children all the horrible things he/she has done, but what will you gain by doing that?
3. Thou shalt not curse the exes name in front of the children. Walk outside, write in a journal, curse him or her to your friends, but not to the children. This is probably the hardest thing to do, but it is really important. Remember your child is half of that other parent
4. Remember to hold dear, above all else, the schedule, but be flexible when need be. Be responsible and show your children you care enough to be there for them, but be flexible when you can be if the other parent is having a conflict. Having a routine or schedule allows the children some level of normalcy.
5. Teach them to honor both mother and father. Yes, this is a toughie when you despise the other parent, but it will be worth it. Remember, at times when we have nothing nice to say, say nothing.
6. Thou shalt not kill the child’s image of their parent. Our children love us unconditionally, at least until they are young adults and know everything. Let their image of the other parent stay as they see it, in time the truth will come out without you having to say a word.
7. Though shalt not commit to other children, before their own. Oftentimes parents remarry and start new families. It’s important to remember ALL your children. Let your children know that you love them and will always be there for them. Assure them and reassure them continually that even though their lives are changing, you will always be a constant in their life, then stick to it.
8. Thou shalt let the children know it is not their fault. It’s is imperative to let your children know the divorce was not their fault. Children believe they are the center of the universe and internalize. Their inner thoughts can become – if I tried harder in school … didn’t fight as much with my brother … if I didn’t answer my parents back … and the list goes on. Children need to hear that the decision to divorce had nothing to do with them.
9. Thou shalt not lie to their children. Just as we shouldn’t tell our children everything about the divorce, we shouldn’t lie to them about facts either. If your child asks you specific questions do your best to answer truthfully without emotion. If their other parent has skipped town and you have no idea where they are, be honest. Don’t lie on their behalf.
10. Thou shalt not harm the child’s relationship with the other parent. Do not try to undermine your child’s relationship with their other parent. Do not play games with the other parent’s visitation because you are angry with your ex. If you do, you are being a parental alienator and that is not being the best parent you can be.
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