Parental Alienation Hurts

Parental Alienation Hurts


Are you wondering: What is parental alienation? Is parental alienation real? What does PA look like? What does an alienating parent do? What's it like to be an alienated parent?


What is Parental Alienation? 

Let's start with a simple explanation and then get more detailed throughout the post.

In Parental Alienation (sometimes called Parent Alienation), one parent intentionally alienates their children from the other parent. It is emotionally abusive not only to the alienated parent—it is also abusive to the children.

What we are talking about here is different from normal estrangement that might occur between children and their parents because of expected stages of development or actual bad acts of the parents they are rejecting. It is a distortion of the intentions, attitudes, and behaviors of the alienated parent.


What's in This Post

Help for Alienated Parents
What is the Definition of Parental Alienation?
Parental Alienation: Syndrome or Not?
The 3 Alienating Messages
When Does Parent Alienation Happen?
Child Manipulation by a Parent
Signs of Parental Alienation
Parental Alienation Example


Help for Alienated Parents

I know that it is very painful to be alienated from your children. Before telling you about Parental Alienation, I want to give you some resources if you need help right now. Click on the organization title to go to their website: 

Parental Alienation Awareness Organization USA

International Support Network for Alienated Families 

Parental Alienation Anonymous PA-A

(Note: I don't have personal experience with any of these organizations. I'm not vouching for them, just passing them on because their websites seem to say the right things.)


988 suicide hotline


What is the Definition of Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is a term used to describe a situation where one parent, often through manipulative behavior, turns a child against the other good parent. This can lead to the child rejecting or even hating the targeted parent, causing significant emotional distress for both the parent and child.

Dr. Amy Baker, Parental Alienation expert, and author of many books on the subject including Co-parenting with a Toxic Ex, What to do When Your Ex-Spouse Tries to Turn the Kids Against You, defines Parental Alienation this way:

“Parental alienation syndrome occurs when a parent emotionally manipulates a child into turning against his or her other parent, in the absence of abuse or neglect.”


 Parental Alienation Definition Quotes Amy Baker, Parent Alienation, signs of Parental Alienation examples



Parental Alienation: Syndrome or Not?

Controversy has brewed over the idea of parental alienation since Richard Gardner described Parental Alienation Syndrome in the 1980s. The controversy largely focuses on whether or not there should be an official syndrome for children experiencing severe behavioral, psychological, and emotional impact from being manipulated into rejecting a loving, nurturing parent.

Whether or not there is an official syndrome, parents do sometimes choose to distort a child’s reality so that the child is turned against the other parent in their efforts to control, punish, or demean the other parent, or for other self-serving reasons. In so doing, they abuse both the child and the other parent. 


A quick look at Partner Abuse: A Concise Overview of Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, and the 5 Other Forms of Partner Abuse in Straight and LGBTQ Relationships



The 3 Alienating Messages

In Parental Alienation, one parent manipulates the thoughts and feelings of the children to twist them against the other parent. It is a form of brainwashing.

Dr. Baker describes a three-part message an alienating parent gives to their child:

  1. I am the only parent who loves you, and you need me in order to feel good about yourself.

  2. The other parent is dangerous and unavailable.

  3. Pursuing a relationship with that parent jeopardizes your relationship with me.

      In the most severe cases of parental alienation, the child fully adopts the alienating parent’s hatred for the target parent.


      What is Parental Alienation, Parent Alienation messages, manipulative women, abusive women, children and divorce


      When Does Parent Alienation Happen?

      Intentional alienation of children’s affection toward one parent can happen:

      • while a family is together,

      • during separation, or

      • after divorce.

      While the family is intact and living together, an abusive woman or man may maliciously work to undermine their partner’s relationship with their child, misrepresenting the partner's actions and attitudes, thereby distorting the child’s perception of the other parent.

      The most severe cases of parental alienation usually occur after separation or divorce.


      Child Manipulation by a Parent

      In Parental Alienation, one parent manipulates the thoughts and feelings of the children to twist them against the other parent. It is a form of brainwashing.


      Signs of Parental Alienation

      To show what parental alienation looks like, I’ll use AP to designate an Alienating Parent (the one doing the alienating).

      An Alienating Parent (AP) might:

      1. Make the children think that the AP’s happiness is dependent on them choosing the AP over the other parent.

      2. Sabotage the other parent’s ability to spend time with the children.

      3. Lie about the other parent or exaggerate the other parent’s flaws.

      4. Lead the children to believe the other parent doesn’t care about the AP or them.

      5. Isolate the children from the other parent’s extended family, including grandparents.

      6. Interfere with the children’s relationship with the other parent’s new partner. 

      7. Force the children to lie about the other parent.


          Parental Alienation Example

          At the age of 18, a man’s father showed him a shoebox of cashed child support checks (This was in the days when your monthly bank statement was mailed to you with the checks you had written that were cashed by the recipient of the check). The existence of the cashed checks went against everything the man had been told by his mother.

          After his parents divorced, his mom had filled his head with stories of how dad didn’t care about him, including what he discovered were lies about non-payment of child support.

          Dad had tried and tried to secure time with the children, but his attempts were thwarted. Mom had so manipulated the situation that she demanded that the children lie about dad in court. Torn, but wanting to please her, the children had complied. They falsely accused their dad of child abuse. The court believed their stories and dad was banned from contact with the children.

          Having lost his custody court battles and his right to see his children, dad moved out of state but kept sending the support checks.

          After the eye-opening reunion with his dad, the two were able to rebuild their relationship and the boy-turned-man was able to see that his mom had distorted his perception of his dad and that dad did care about him all along.  

          I have seen several cases similar to this one.

          Even if your child has turned against you, they might find their way back to you as an adult.  


          Books About Partner Abuse

          Through decades of academic study of psychology topics including partner abuse, and counseling couples and individuals, I've learned a lot about what works and doesn't work in relationships. I've used that learning to create books to help you figure out what's happening in your relationship.


          A quick look at Partner Abuse is a summary of all forms of partner abuse in all types of romantic relationships.

          A quick look at Partner Abuse: A Concise Overview of Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, and the 5 Other Forms of Partner Abuse in Straight and LGBTQ Relationships


          Comprehensive book about partner abuse when men are the targets of abusive wives and girlfriends:

          Abuse OF Men BY Women, It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time To Get Real About It, available on this website (click here), Amazon, and other book retailers.


          Abuse OF Men BY Women: It Happens, It Hurts, and It's Time to Get Real About It


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          • Ann Silvers
          Comments 1
          • Chelsy | MotherhoodandMayhem
            Chelsy | MotherhoodandMayhem

            My daughter’s father is toxic, manipulative, and controlling, and I still can’t wrap my head around his behaviors toward myself and our child – but sadly, it has shown me that something as terrible and abusive as parental alienation is possible. Thank you for sharing this information. It can sneak up on parents who aren’t aware of what it is.

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