Parental alienation can cause significant damage to the parent-child relationship. And it’s not just the alienated parent who is a victim; it’s the child as well. Parenting after parental alienation can be difficult because the alienated parent loses authority and the child loses respect and attachment. Trying to parent a child who neither respects nor listens to you can seem hopeless. The good news is many children who are victims of parental alienation do want to reunite with the alienated parent, but the alienating parent does everything in his or her power to prevent that from happening.
If you are a victim of parental alienation, it’s not your fault. Parental alienation is a type of psychological disorder and can be a formidable adversary. But you can parent—even effectively—after parental alienation and combat the forced barrier placed between you and your child with a few steps.
First, you need to go through reunification therapy with your child. Reunification therapy is an essential recovery tool after separation, either physical or psychological, between parent and child. The therapist can help you identify what went wrong and take steps to bridge the gaps in your family dynamic. This process can take time, but be patient with your child and your progress.
One specific method employed in reunification therapy is establishing guidelines. Guidelines can help restore parental authority and protect your child from the toxic influence of the alienating parent. Guidelines can also help you parent effectively again. For example, establishing (or reestablishing) rules for your custodial time can prevent the other parent from influencing your child while in your care. This is important because that is a common tactic of parental alienation. Also, talking with your child about what the alienating parent has done can give your child the space to talk openly about his or her feelings.
You also need to exercise great patience. Again, the process of reunification can take time. Remember that your child wants to express love for you but is held under the power of the alienating parent. The hostility and distrust he or she may exhibit toward you is most likely a defensive mechanism. Thus, your patience is key to parenting after alienation.
Part of reunification therapy is reestablishing the power balance between both parents. It is often a family effort. The alienating parent may have significant progress to make before he or she can respect your authority as a parent, but a good therapist—coupled with patience—can help your family dynamic balance out.
Professional guidance, patience, and firm household guidelines are practical tools for overcoming parental alienation. But if your child has been harmed by the parental alienation and the alienating parent is not amenable to reunification therapy, consider taking additional steps to protect your child and your rights. You may want to seek a custody modification or adjust your parenting time schedule, so consult with a knowledgeable New Jersey child custody attorney about your options.
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