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How to Cope With and Prevent Parental Alienation Syndrome

A dispute over child custody is very common in a divorce case. Frequently, however, the negative comments of one parent in a child custody dispute will cause children to suddenly become emotionally distant with or exclude the other parent. This is called Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and occurs in nearly 60% of all divorce cases.

It primarily arises as a result of a parent excessively criticizing the other and talking to the child about the details of the conflict between the parents. Let's look at the ways to recognize and effectively deal with this problem.

What exactly is Parental Alienation Syndrome? Parental Alienation Syndrome is identified by certain "symptoms" in the child. Primarily, he or she will have no interest in a relationship and will refuse to communicate with or visit the targeted parent. The child will usually excessively criticize the parent despite having no compelling reasons.

Meanwhile, the alienating parent might be idealized. Children with this syndrome might also express a complete lack of gratitude for any gifts, payments, or affection from the other parent. This behavior can extend to the parent's extended family as well.

What can both parents do to prevent and cope with Parental Alienation Syndrome?Parental Alienation Syndrome can be caused either deliberately or inadvertently by a parent's actions and comments. Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that parents can avoid and deal with this syndrome when it arises. Here are a few ideas that you might consider:

1) Always maintain a positive relationship with the child-The alienated parent will typically have had a healthy relationship with the child in the past. It is important to be patient and to continue a positive relationship as much as possible because any negativity might only cause further harm.

2) Cooperate with the other parent-It is true that children are influenced by the actions of the parents as much as their spoken comments. The parents should always maintain respect and cooperation with one another as an example to the child.

3) Avoid excessively criticizing the other parent in front of the child or while the child is listening-Although this is often difficult in a divorce, it is important that the parents do not communicate dislike for one another or blame the other for any problems around the child.

4) Avoid making children aware of legal issues or financial problems-It is typically not necessary for children to be aware of the details of the conflict between the parents.

5) Remind the child of the other parent's good traits-Both parents should consider reminding the child that the other parent cares for him or her. The child can be made aware of the parent's good character traits.

6) Encourage the child to contact the parent's extended family-The exclusion often extends to the other parent's relatives as well. If they had a healthy relationship with each other previously, the child should be encouraged to renew contact with their relatives.

What doesn't work when facing Parental Alienation Syndrome? The knee jerk reaction for many parents facing PA is to try to rationalize with the child or with the alienating parent, or both. However, this is typically completely ineffective and often gives both the child and the other parent fuel to say “see, he/she is confrontational and impossible to deal with.”

Parental alienation is a horrible experience for a parent that loves their child. Many parents who have to deal with parental alienation syndrome struggle with strong feelings of hurt and anger - and that is totally normal! It's best to seek help and take the high road, utilizing the tips we've outlined above.

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