Because your marriage was stressful, you probably had no doubt that your divorce would be too. Still, you managed to separate, and now you share parenting duties that include divided time with your children. While this arrangement seemed to work in the beginning, you are noticing a change in your children. Perhaps they are more sullen, less communicative or even uninterested in being with you. They may even be openly defiant and disrespectful.
While it may be easy to chalk this up to the traumatic changes in their lives or the phases they may be going through, you may also be witnessing the early results of a frightening scheme your former spouse is perpetrating. Known as parental alienation, this form of psychological abuse places the children in a confusing and vulnerable position as your former spouse uses them to rob you of your parental rights.
What is parental alienation?
Parental alienation occurs when one parent systematically convinces the children to reject the other parent. This begins in slow stages, and you may even have noticed signs of it before you divorced. If, during your marriage, your spouse routinely ridiculed you or mocked you in front of the children, it is not out of the question that such behavior would intensify after you split.
Psychologists believe parents who alienate their children from their other parent have a type of personality disorder, and that their behavior is dangerous for the mental and emotional health of the children as well as for their relationships with either parent. Children who are alienated in this way from a parent may be unable to develop their own self-awareness since they may learn to distrust what they once believed in so strongly – the love of a parent. Some ways in which your spouse may accomplish this include:
- Demeaning you to the children
- Refusing to support your decisions regarding the children
- Pointing out and exaggerating your weaknesses
- Failing to respect your time with the children
- Rewarding the children when they do not want to spend time with you
- Encouraging the children to criticize you
A child subject to these tactics will begin to imitate the disrespect of the alienating parent. Your children may refuse to allow you to attend school functions, attempt to provoke you into a rage and refuse to acknowledge that you once had a close relationship.
If your former spouse is abusing your children in this way, he or she is in violation of the child custody laws of Illinois. Seeking legal assistance at once may prevent further confusion for your children.