In approximately 20% of children with divorced parents, the parents remain in conflict. Uncooperative and angry, one parent can alienate the other, typically happen when the custodial parent, or the parent who has the children for a majority of the time, essentially turns the children against the other parent. This mother or father becomes known as the alienated parent, and in some cases, the children choose to sever communication because they believe that this adult is wrong.
Reuniting children with alienated parents should be done very carefully. Albeit a false idea, children often get the idea that this mother or father can’t be trusted and will withdraw their love. These kids often hold back, and while they want a connection with their father or mother, they have a difficult time doing so.
Counseling can help to smooth the process of reunification, making it possible for the child and alienated parent to develop a strong bond. Many of these kids recall the relationship they had with their parents before their family’s separation, and they long for this connection to be established. Counseling can help bridge the gaps between this desire and the trust required to reform these bonds. There are some counseling programs in place to provide therapy while fostering healthy relationships.
These programs have similar methods at their core. For instance, counseling children and alienated parents traditionally involve equipping the child to have healthy relationships with both parents. In some cases, the child needs to see himself removed from his or her parents’ conflicts to have a successful counseling experience. Children are often taught to be critical thinkers and to take both sides into account equipping the child to form his or her opinions based on what he or she sees, as opposed to believing partial views. Family intervention can be implemented to encourage a balanced look at a conventional structure and what the ramifications of actions and words are for children and parents.
Children are inept learners, and they quickly absorb negative talk. One primary focus of therapy is to break down this negative train of thought about the other parent. Parents are encouraged to persist with reunification efforts and never to give up on reconnecting the child with his or her parent. Children need both of their parents, and nurturing these relationships is brought to the forefront with proper therapy.
Alienating parents, also known as targeted parents, typically devalue the relationship between the child and alienated parent. Counseling also seeks to bring forth a change in the way both parents react in this situation. Alienating parents need to see the damage they are causing in their child’s life, and therapy can help with this. Another important aspect that counseling recognizes is that the alienated parent should always offer affection, safety, and open communication. The child needs to know that the alienated parent loves him or her unconditionally.
Children of divorce and breakups should never be used in manipulative ways, and these actions can lead to negative consequences for children and parents alike. Counseling can significantly aid in successful reunification.