One of the worst outcomes in a divorce is when a child resists or refuses to be with one of the parents. To be rejected by your child is horrible. It creates a tremendous amount of anguish in the rejected parent and research has shown that, in the long run, the rejecting child will suffer emotionally.
Parental alienation is when the parent a child favors prompts the child to refuse to be with the other parent. A parent that intentionally prompts a child to reject the other parent is pathological and almost never realizes how much harm this will do to the child. Sometimes, this parent rationalizes and thinks that they are saving or protecting the child. However, the opposite is true. They are hurting the child.
It is possible that a child refuses on their own to see a parent, without prompting by the favored parent. The child’s refusal may be realistically based, or it may be related to pre-existing tensions in the family (for example, where a parent and child related poorly well before the divorce). The heightened conflict that occurs during a divorce is thought to be the necessary ingredient that solidifies this conflict into refusal.
Children rejecting a parent is most common in adolescents where negative views of parents normally abound.
Divorce is difficult. It creates stress in families. It can be the breeding ground for anger, hurt, rejection, etc. It is well known that “high conflict” in divorce is the factor that results in children having problems adjusting to the divorce.
When a child resists or refuses to be with a parent, that parent may contribute to the problem by counter-rejecting behavior.
As people divorce they should attempt to keep conflict in control, as much as possible. They should attempt to find solutions that do not result in “divorce wars.” They should facilitate their children having good relationships with both parents. People should work to resolve differences peacefully and not make the situation worse.
When you divorce, you have a choice of what method to use: litigation, collaborative divorce or mediation. Litigation takes the longest time and is most likely to increase the conflict between the divorcing couple. In Collaborative Divorce, the couple agrees to be transparent and attempt to divorce peacefully.
With a Collaborative Divorce, the couple may not be able to always avoid fighting, but their collaborative team will assist them in keeping their goals in focus and minimizing any conflict.
Mediation is also less likely to fan conflict. In mediation, a neutral person assists the couple in reaching agreements. However, mediation does not provide the support that Collaborative Divorce provides. With Collaborative Divorce, the family specialist/coach leads the process and works to keep emotions from derailing the negotiations. The lawyers work with you throughout the process to assist you to reach what is truly “your” agreement. The financial specialist provides the guidance and input necessary for you to make good financial decisions regarding the divorce.
Using a divorce process that is designed to minimize from the outset the conflict and pain inherent in divorcing, reduces the stress on children and the family. The Collaborative Process helps facilitate the transition from a family with the parents living together, to a family where the parents live separately. Keeping conflict and tensions from getting out of control and the divorcing parents working productively, reduces the possibility that a child will be pulled into the conflict and become alienated.
Filed in: Children and Parenting Issues, Emotions and the Family Specialist