In difficult custody battles, involving people of all different levels of income and education and backgrounds, one issue that recurs involves what many call “parental alienation” – the intentional actions by one parent to turn the children against the other parent. A recent online article explains this in more detail and lists the clinical signs of such parenting. If you see these signs, you likely will need not only expert attorney advice but also the assistance of psychologists to modify your custody situation.
The basic premise of “toxic parenting” is the intent by a parent to isolate and distance the children from the “target” parent. How does the toxic parent accomplish this?
- Rejection. Any time the children show affection for the target parent, the toxic parent will reject or verbally attack the children. The toxic parent, consciously or unconsciously, hopes that the repetition will instill a fear response in the child so the child internalizes the criticism. Eventually, the child will resist going to the targeted parent because of the repercussions from the toxic parent.
- Corruption. Going a step beyond rejection, the idea of corruption is to place false ideas into the mind of the child, from lies about the target parent to complete misstatements about the law (such as you do not have to go to the target parent if you do not want to). This particular method interferes with the child’s ability to discern reality.
- Denial. A more common form of toxicity, denial is a series of behavioral responses that create a perverse reward system – if you say nice things about the target parent, you get punished; if you say mean things about the target parent, you get a reward. The child is being trained, or at least incentivized, to reject the other parent in favor of the toxic parent.
- Isolation. A severe form of toxicity, isolation removes the child from the target parent for as long as possible. For example, when the child is with the toxic parent, the child will be unable to communicate at all with the targeted parent.
- Denigration. Another common form of toxicity, denigration is the repeated insulting and verbally abusing the targeted parent in front of the child. Over time, the child begins to believe that the target parent deserves this behavior and will imitate it.
As you can see, these forms of toxic parenting can all qualify as forms of abuse when carried out over a period of time and can lead to physical and mental health issues for the children beyond the harm to the relationship between the child and the target parent.
If you see these signs in your situation, you need to contact your attorney and take steps to protect your child.
If you have questions about toxic parenting and custody, contact us – we can help.