From speaking with and working with many parents who are going through a divorce, I can tell you that one of the biggest concerns each of them has is how their child will think of him or her after the divorce is completed.
Under the best of circumstances, your family’s life will be thrown into disarray for a period of time during and after the divorce, only to recover and hopefully be better than before. On the other hand, in situations where the divorce leads to further mistrust and bad-will between parents, the relationships that previously existed are completely destroyed.
The end result is often times that parents have accomplished a goal of divorcing their spouse but begin to encounter other hardships that involve their children that were not previously apparent.
Before you begin to assume that it is purely the result of how you as a parent reacts to the divorce and your children, it is important to know that how your spouse relates to you and speaks to you in front of your children can have just as dramatic effect on your relationship with your kids. I am speaking about the concept known as “parental alienation”. While the term parental alienation may sound foreign to you, the concept will sound familiar once we get into.
What exactly is parental alienation?
Parental alienation can take many forms, but at its root describes the behavior or words of your child’s other parent that can be utilized to harm your relationship with your child.
This typically means that if your spouse is speaking badly of you and is doing so in front of your children, he or she is engaged in alienating behavior. While no parent (including you) is perfect, you can do your best to limit the amount that you say in front of your child about your ex-spouse. It is reasonable to expect your spouse to do the same on your behalf.
It is when your ex-spouse repeatedly or habitually uses your name in a negative context that the occasional loss of temper bleeds over into parental alienation. Alienation is more than just anger or frustration boiling over every once in a while. Alienating behavior involves your spouse saying and doing things in order to deliberately harm your relationship with your children. This behavior is not only harmful to you, but it is to your children as well.
Your children are affected by your divorce more than anyone
While you may have a semi-regular pity party for yourself, lamenting just how much your divorce is affecting your life in a negative manner, your children will ultimately be affected by your divorce more than you or your spouse in all likelihood.
The reason for this is because their entire lives are built around two people: you and your spouse. They rely on you for everything. This includes the stuff we think about commonly- food, clothing and shelter, but also for their emotional well being.
If your ex-spouse is making a habit out of degrading you or manipulating your children into thinking less of you then your children will suffer psychologically due to their sense of self and their sense of the world being eroded. If one of the two pillars that hold up their lives is suddenly made to appear weak or crumbling then you can only imagine what that can do to their psyche.
Children can come out of a divorce with a sense of reality that is severely off-base because a trusted parent is filling them with nonsensical and hurtful false information about the other parent.
Just don’t do it- Keep your ex-spouse’s name out of your conversations with the kids
If you and your spouse are engaged in a dispute during your divorce, or even after your divorce, it is easy enough to fall into the trap of discussing the events with your children. After all, it affects them more than anyone.
Be aware that not only will your court orders bar you from doing so, discussing these issues with your kids is a pathway towards potential alienating behavior. It is not a far leap from telling your children about the reason why a divorce happened to completely trashing and speaking poorly about your ex-spouse.
Children have impressionable minds and it is up to you and your spouse to ensure that their minds are molded to comprehend and evaluate information that is presented to them.
By speaking negatively about their other parent on a continual basis, their young minds can begin to assume bad things about them based on what you are telling them. Even if these issues are true, your children should not be made privy to the inner workings of your divorce or relationship difficulties.
If you want your child to come out of the divorce unscathed and with a strong sense of self, do your best to not only not speak poorly of your spouse but to speak reasonably of him or her.
It could be that you are as mad at him or her as you’ve ever been at any person ever in your life. That’s fine. In front of your children though, do your absolute best to affirm the love that both you and your soon to be ex-spouse have for your children. This will go a long way to building trust between you and your children and will increase their mental stability and fortitude as they too begin to transition to life post-divorce.
Questions about parental alienation? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
If you believe that your ex-spouse is attempting to alienate your children from you, please understand that you have the right to stop this behavior.
A free of charge consultation with one of the family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC can assist you in stopping this sort of behavior from occurring and can inform you of your rights if it does not. Our consultations are free of charge and are available six days per week.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Parental Alienation- What is it and what does it mean for my Texas Family Law case?
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