10 Top Ways to Fight Parental Alienation

There is much debate as to whether or not parental alienation rises to the level of a definable mental illness often referred to as “parental alienation syndrome.”  At Mr. Custody Coach, we don’t much care about that part of the argument.  Reasonably intelligent individuals are aware that people of all ages can be taught to hate, love, learn, etc. on any number of topics.  When a malicious parent chooses to teach their children to hate the targeted parent – that’s parental alienation.  (Referred to as “PA” throughout the rest of this article.)

It’s real.  It exists.  Despite all of the fear-mongering and hysteria, particularly by women’s groups – it’s not simply a “tactic to gain the upper hand” in a custody proceeding.  A mother can do it.  A father can do it.  It makes one wonder why anyone would be against anything that shines a spotlight on parental alienation.  We have our suspicions, but that isn’t the point of this article.  We want to share with you some ways to combat it when it is happening to you.  Please also see our Parental Alienation Teleconference – available on-demand with over 3-hours of extremely detailed and helpful discussion with our special guest expert.

#1 – Don’t become an alienator! Regardless of the order of the rest of the tips we present, this is the most important one.  When you’re experiencing PA, you will have a natural tendency to become defensive and explain yourself to death.  Worse, you may want to counter and talk about what horrible things your ex has done.  This is alienation, too!  Don’t get suckered by your natural desire to defend yourself against false accusations.

#2 – “I love you” always! Any time you do manage to gain contact with your children, regardless of the method, tell them that you love them.  Tell them that you care for them.  Tell them that they’re often in your heart and mind.

#3 – Positive language, always! Avoid the use of negative language.  This is one parents often overlook.  It’s simple and it’s subtle, that’s why it’s missed.  Sometimes we’ll call it “think like the child.”  Examples include:

Instead of, “I miss you…” Use, “I look forward to the next time I see you!” I miss you can put the child in a position to feel guilt or upset.  The second effort is upbeat and positive.

Instead of, “I wish I could have seen that…” Use, “Wow, that’s great to hear and must have been very exciting!” The former conveys a lost opportunity or a regret.  The latter conveys excitement, support, and positive reinforcement regarding whatever experience is the topic.

Find your opportunities to turn a potentially negative message into a positive communication.

#4 – Never stop contact efforts! Even if you know that your cards, letters, gifts, emails, voice-mails, etc. are being intercepted or are otherwise never delivered – don’t give up the effort.  Change may not come in the short-term, so keeping a diary or journal of your contact efforts as well as writing to your children as if they were going to read it – SOME DAY – will prove helpful both for you and, hopefully your children if they have the opportunity to find out the truth.

#5 – Control yourself! Manage your emotions. Follow your court orders and agreements.  Avoid giving your high-conflict ex-partner any reason to vilify  you to the children more than they already have.  Frankly, they don’t need an excuse, they can just make them up.  Made up ones, you are much more likely to overcome in the long run.  Provable mis-steps, not quite so easy to overcome.

#6 – Avoid blaming the children! Try to remember that they are victims in this mess, too.  You will be challenged on this one, as along with the general bad-mouthing about you that is a common part of the PA experience, your children may spy on you, talk about every move you make, every purchase you do, who you talk to or spend time with, and if you don’t remember that it is a part of the alienator’s arsenal, you could become agitated towards the children.  Don’t let it happen.

#7 – Be yourself! Don’t overcompensate, though.  If you just act as you always do, you can’t possibly be appearing to your children as your ex is portraying you.  Avoid overdoing it because of your desire to be “extra-special” as a means of countering your ex’s false allegations. Just be your usual loving, caring, nurturing self.  Always remember that your actions will forever speak louder than your ex-partner’s words.

#8 – Keep your plans, always! That is to say, if you’ve made special plans or arrangements which involve your children, leave them in place even if you fear that your ex-partner will not relinquish the children for your custodial time (custodial interference).  If you’re late or fail to show one time, it will be twisted into “proof” of your lack of caring for the children and give them the power to further alienate the children.

#9 – Build the relationship with memorable moments! We are not suggesting that memorable moments = become the Disneyland parent!  Quite the opposite.  Long talks while canoeing on the lake or during long walks, a nice vacation, having a catch with the ball, sharing a professional sporting event… for younger children – book reading, movie watching, this list is endless.  It’s not about “fun and games all the time” – it’s about memories that will forever be etched in their brains for all time.

#10 – Create the best team of professionals you can afford! Legal professionals, mental health professionals, therapists, articles, scholarly studies with solid data – all of that needs to be readily available to make your case the strongest it can possibly be.  Be sure they are knowledgeable and experienced with parental alienation and can advocate for the appropriate changes that will benefit your family.

Conclusion: Parental alienation of children, regardless of severity, will very likely affect them well into adulthood.  It is vitally important that you avoid, at all costs, directing your rage, frustration, or disappointment at the children. The high-conflict, vindictive ex-spouse is the root of the problem no matter how much the actions and words of the child are what becomes your immediate torment.  The children are caught in the middle of a terrible struggle and doesn’t really mean the terrible things they’re saying about you or doing to you.

Hang in there!

Please also see our Parental Alienation Teleconference – available on-demand.

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  1. […] Click here to see:  Our 10 Top Ways to Fight Parental Alienation […]

  2. My ex has my boys (20 and 14 yrs old) that I left all of them. I suffered through 2 years of horrible visitations 5 years ago right after the divorce. It was forced by the court but they did not want to go. Eventually they started refusing to go again and flipping me off through the window. I call, text and send cards at least once per month and stay positive in my contacts but they cuss me out and tell me they hate me. I send them money for birthdays and Christmas but this year I bought them gifts and asked to meet with them to give them their gifts. I have not seen either in 3 years. They are refusing to meet. Do I keep sending money and gifts to children who have eliminated me? My 20 year old wants me to pay for college but refuses to have anything to do with me. He just wants me to fund him. I desperately want a relationship with my boys…what do I do? Signed, Down and out.

  3. First of all, my heart goes out to you because I have seen my husband go through similar situation with his ex & kids. While the son (now 20) had minimal contact with his dad, he did come around for a time two years back when my husband’s father passed. The daughter (18) did not come around, refused to come to the funeral, & has maintained that she does NOT want her dad in her life. Yet, she occasionally sends a note full of profanity & disrespect, telling her dad how much she doesn’t need him.

    His ex encouraged the kids to stay away & to rebuke their dad at every opportunity, which they have done. We tried keeping in touch by sending gifts for birthdays & Christmas & were never thanked or acknowledged for doing so. In fact, we were told later by the ex that the packages & cards we sent (to their home which is only a half-mile from ours) were trashed, unopened upon receipt. After that, we stopped wasting our money as we did not want to reward the kids’ rudeness. Our feeling, which we’ve maintained, is that we will not “pay” them to be in our lives. My mother-in-law & sister-in-law lavish large checks to these kids to “keep a relationship” with them, but they are in no more frequent contact with these kids than we are. Like ours, their gifts are also not acknowledged but they feel better giving money to the children as opposed to not giving.

    Bottomline- You have to decide if you want your relationship with your sons to simply be based upon the money you provide to them, or if you want to try & enjoy a mutually respectful relationship with your boys with money being the icing on the cake. Older kids are NOT innocent victims in these matters…they make the choice to be in touch, involved, and a part of your life or not. Added note-I had to turn my back on each of my kids for brief timeframes in their teens years. They did without their mom for a bit, and then decided they would rather have me in their lives than not. Bless my folks too, for their support, because turning my back was hard but it worked. They told my sons, “We love you but your mom is OUR kid and we love her more!” I did this per a suggestion from my counselor who told me that I needed to stop being so available to my kids.

    He said, “they told you to get out of their lives–so let them experience what life is truly like without mom!” Best advice I ever received! I truly think my husbands kids would make a turnaround if his sister & mother weren’t continually rewarding those kids for their horrible behavior.

    Best of luck to you. Keep your heart open but guarded, and keep the faith!

  4. […] Ten Top Ways to Fight Parental Alienation […]

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  6. hello, was wondering if anyone has any advice on how to deal with new boyfriends crazy vindictive ex. i mean, when he picks his osn up its a huge war over everything from the littlest thing to when hes suposse to pick his son up again….to her mot wanting me tro be aorund her son, or post pics of her son, even tho they have shared custody, on my fb pics with my two kids pics as well. … she has lied to her lawyer about her son coming home smelling like smoke, since their sons asthmatic, i do not smoke in the house, but swears hes come home smelling like cig smoke when infact its been wood smoke from the stove….she has denied him access cause she doesnt want to take pay away from the sitter and even changed sitters when the last sitter said she didnt mind him picking his son up an hour early. what do we do , when shes controlling everything and neglecting to even tell my boyfriend when his osn has a drs appt….?

  7. Thank you for this email. We are the alienated family of four precious children. It seems like there is no one to talk to in our community about this. No one knows about it. We are grandparents and our son is the targeted parent. Our situation is chronic and constant. We feel pretty helpless in this and need direction. Can anyone help with ideas?

  8. I am a Divorcee with 2 sons from my ex-husband. I have re-married and have a son with my new husband. My ex-husband is using toys & “no rules” to turn our children against me and my husband. He tells them that there are no rules at his house. But there are rules at my house. When they don’t have any contact with their father our blended family functions really well. I have NEVER denied my Ex accessibility to our children even when he was NOT paying child support, but I have had it with his brainwashing. He comes around when it is convenient for him and he is always complaining about the the child support that he pays. It hurts me to the core to see our children’s minds be played with. I really feel like he is teaching our children to hate me. Any advice on how to deal with my Ex.

  9. I broke up with my ex shortly 1 year and few months after my son was born. I was going to get back with her but after seeing how see is after the fact made me realize what kind of person she was and it distanced me even further. Ever since my son was almost 2 years old she has found a reason not to let me spend time with him (only when its convenient for her). My son is now 14 years and she is still finding reasons but even worst has manipulated my child into hating me. A few weeks ago we went to court and she brought him along to court for him to tell the judge that he didn’t want to see me. Well it backed fired on her because the judge said she needed to filed a motion to bring the child to court. Outside the court room I pulled him a side and spoke with him and explained to him its not his fault. After talking to him we both agreed to go and having a late lunch together and he told his mother he wanted to go to eat with me in front of my lawyer she stared him down as if he was doing something wrong. We still managed to go to lunch and catch up. He seemed very happy and even made plans for the following weekend. When that weekend came along he texted me that he wanted to be adopted by his step father and didn’t want me around. I’m working with my attorney trying to resolve this matter but I realized that as long as he lives with his mother he will continue to be brain washed. This is the same exact thing her mother did to her when she was a child. The only difference was she was the one to take her father to court for child support at the age of 15 years took his money and never spoke to him again. It’s very disgusting how a parent would allow themselves to hurt a child’s mentally they apparently love to much. Now I’m paying the price for her mothers wrong doing.