Parental Alienation

parental alienation
photo source;

One of the most destructive patterns of behavior in a divorce is Parental Alienation Syndrome or PAS as it is known in certain circles.  I hadn’t heard of the term when I separated from my husband but if only I had, I would have seen the red flags flying above my head.  While knowledge is power, I was naive. Even if you are not experiencing PAS, it’s important to understand what it is and at least recognize the signs.

What is PAS?

“Parental Alienation is a destructive form of parenting where one parent bad mouths directly to and within earshot of the children, the other parent (the target) with the intention of having the children lower their opinion of the other parent.  What begins as bad mouthing can become verbal bashing and brainwashing in an attempt to estrange the children from the other parent and at the very least tainting the relationship.  What is washed out of the children’s brains is any positive feelings or even loving memories of the other parent.” – excerpt-The Great Escape; A Girl’s Guide to Leaving a Marriage

It sounds impossible but believe me, it can happen.  Children believe everything that parent tells them.  Heck, it wasn’t that long ago they believed in Santa Claus.  With their impressionable minds it isn’t difficult to manipulate and brainwash a child.  It is a form of abuse nonetheless, unscrupulous parents do it as a means to their own ends.

Before we look at the signs in your children remember to always ask yourself, Is the child’s behavior directed at both parents or just me? This will help you decipher whether some of their behaviors are a result of growing pains or if they are the real result of alienation.

What are the SIGNS?

… in the children

they show a DISREGARD FOR YOU including your feelings, your property and any gifts or plans you have made for them


they display UNCOMMON CONCERN for the other parent

they display ANXIETY OR FEAR  of choosing to spend time with you

they  PARROT ADULT LANGUAGE  (they sound like your ex)

… in the parent

they are EXTREMELY POSSESSIVE of the children

they constantly INTERFERE AND DISREGARD YOUR TIME with the children

they MAKE PLANS with the children on your parenting weeks

they ENLISTS FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO MAKE PLANS with the children on your parenting time


when YOU arrive to PICK UP THE CHILDREN BUT THEY’RE OUT with the other parent

they are in CONSTANT CONTACT with the children (multiple times per day)

they ‘NEED’ THE CHILDREN on your parenting time

they WITH HOLD CHILD SUPPORT to lessen your parenting power

they may show signs of NARCISSISTIC personality

TIPS-how to deal…

parental alienation
source; Pinterest


COMMUNICATE-Start talking about it, lay out the facts and discuss the issues with your children on their level

TEACH-that it’s okay to make mistakes in life and that no one is perfect, this will counteract the negative statements about you

LOVE-will win over abuse any day of the week! PA is a form of child abuse and love will eventually empower and overtake the destruction, even if it’s tough love

REMIND-them of all the good times you’ve had together and all the cherished memories you share, look through photos, tell funny stories of when they were little or from last year…rinse and repeat as often as possible to counteract the brainwashing

JOURNAL-your feelings and the events of the alienation to cope and have evidence if needed

I know I felt like this many times…but that’s why keeping a JOURNAL and writing things down can help

parental alienation
source; dreamstime


Above all else, do not give up on your children.  You will feel like it some days and it will be painful but if you persevere you will win them back eventually.  The number one mistake parents make in this situation is to remain silent.

DO NOT REMAIN SILENT.  Silence is acceptance.

Taking the high road will leave you heartbroken.  Telling the truth is not taking the low road, it is the counteraction of the lies.  Don’t give up, stay strong, be aware and love your children.

parental alienation
photo source; dreamstime

The good news? Judges, lawyers and therapists are all very aware of the pattern and destruction of PA.  They are making rulings against the parents and even grandparents that alienate children.  This means it has a negative impact on the parent abusing their children in this way and ultimately, they will pay the price.  Both parents deserve time with their children.  To ask your child to reject their other parent is asking them to reject a part of themselves…I wish I could say we are making strides in stopping the behavior but I think it will always be a tool for vindictive parents.  All we can do is our best to counteract it within our own families and that means communicating and educating everyone involved.

Check out my youtube video on PAS here.

Do you have a tip or a story? Leave a comment I LOVE ’em!

Resources; My bible on this subject is Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard Warshak

                        I also cover this subject in more detail in my book The Great Escape; A Girl’s Guide to Leaving a Marriage


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15 Replies to “Parental Alienation”

  1. Sometimes people stay in a bad marriage because they are afraid of this, but I’m guessing parental alienation can also happen WITHIN a marriage, too.

    I don’t think occasionally asking to switch weekends is a biggie – it’s when those requests are ALWAYS happening (and often at the last minute) that it’s clearly a game. Whatever you do, however your ex tries to use the kids to get at you, do NOT do the same back at him (or her).

    1. Yes and yes. It can happen within a marriage but it’s a little more subtle. You are so right about not doing it back as that will not solve anything and create even more chaos for the kids. Thanks, Beverly for your input 🙂

  2. My girlfriend just got divorced. I never realized how difficult it was for all concerned….especially the children.

    She tells me things– and I’m like “WOW, I never thought of that. I didn’t understand before.”
    Her divorce is VERY civil. They are both SUPERB parents…

    and it’s still heartbreaking difficult.

    I mean, she’s already worrying about the Holidays. You know?

    Great post. Thanks for the education. Xx

    1. I always love to hear about the civil divorces-Yay! She’s wise to anticipate the holiday schedule now so no one is disappointed later. Thanks Kim, for stopping by!

  3. PAS can happen anytime or anywhere. And beware the narsissitic ex because you will keep paying, and paying, and paying…. Even 8 years AFTER the divorce. As a non custodial father, my ex played the system like a harp and throughout a 3 year custody battle (a year AFTER) the divorce, turned my son against me. They both made irrational and false accusations. Yet because he appeared so charming and “concerned”, because my son was parroting everything he said and it was 2 against one, and because he and his new wife have money, he got believed. He stopped paying child support, quit his job. Lived off of savings and his new wife at an economic level I could never hope to compete with and then alienated my son. Since that time I have somewhat repaired my relationship with my son, but the ex moved with him 1500 miles away after he graduated high school. They now live in million dollar homes in the northeast while our daughter and I manage to scrape by. I have the legal right to receive child support now for our daughter. But he is still playing games and I am afraid he will go after custody and try to alienate her as well. I don’t know what to do…. I am educated and have a decent job. But no leftover money for attorneys. I could use the support. She could use the support. But I am so scared of another 3 year court battle where the evaluators and lawyers all believe that I am crazy and neglectful without a shred of evidence…. As an example, the ex accused me of trying to commit suicide twice. That never happened. He had not a shred of proof or any medical or hospital records (although he was careful and stated that he locked me in the closet after one attempt, so he covered himself with no medical records there) I denied the accusation and was told that I was delusional and needed therapy to be able accept and face my actions…. Actions that I did not, nor would not do….. The more I denied it, the worse I looked….. I lost one child, I don’t know if I could bear to loose 2…..

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Teleah. I’m very sorry you have gone through what sounds like Hell.
      When a Narcissistic ex has the economic power in the legal system, it can certainly wreak havoc. $=power and if you don’t have the resources you are automatically vulnerable. However, you can take control of the child support issue. Child support has nothing to do with a custody hearing. The simple fact that your daughter resides with you full time, means he is required to pay child support based on his income. If you read my article Deadbeat 911, I give a step by step tutorial in how to seek child support in court as a self represented litigant, you may get some helpful tips to get started.

      PAS is one of the most difficult things to overcome. I’m not sure how old your daughter is but if he has little access and great distance (living in another city) then he will have less opportunity to poison her. THis is child abuse…once the children are adults they will appreciate you as their mother. You will always be their mother and so you don’t have to compete with his lifestyle.

  4. Hi again Lisa! I have obviously been to your blog before but I forgot how much I enjoyed your About Me page (now for the third time). To this post above, I lived with my father (my mother chose to leave) and he was very passive/aggressive in his bad mouthing. And when I saw “aggressive” I don’t mean threatening but just the constant hot/cold and saying she left, maybe I could ask her for some money, etc. They are both deceased now and did their best. But, I absolutely loathe parents who bad mouth the other PERIOD….but especially in front of their children. It will not have a good outcome down the road for how that stuff gets wrapped around in your kid’s head. Another great post, Lisa 🙂

    1. Hi Mike, thanks for your valuable input! I agree with you 100%. I see it firsthand, and even when the kids are grown. It’s very sad for those parents who just don’t ‘get’ it. UGH!

  5. You say to COMMUNICATE. But couldn’t this be perceived as bad-mouthing to the other parent?

    1. Not if you always stick to the facts. Don’t embellish or exaggerate. Staying silent is detrimental and tends to corroborate lies and myths the children are being exposed to.

  6. My son was in a relationship with my now one year old grandson. She will not let him see him since he was only 7 months old. She tries to blame my son but every time he tries to see him she has an excuse. She is seeking supervised custody. My son has never harmed my grandson ever! He has however fell into her trap and reacted to her craziness in a verbally abusive manner towards her. But when they were together she was treated like a princess. Not even 2 months after their breakup she became pregnant and calls another man my grandsons “daddy” and she flaunts these things on social media and bad mouths him on there too! How can he convince a judge she is lying. They go for mediation in a week. That’s a joke in my opinion!

    1. Well, there is no sure-fire way to convince a judge that someone is lying. All your son can do is document everything. Every time he tries to see his son and is rejected. Every time she makes an excuse. If he has all of this with dates and times, it will be more convincing and credible. I hope he gets shared custody and there should be no reason for supervised custody unless there is a history of abuse or addiction etc. If he is clean he should be able to spend time with his son without any supervision. I hope it goes well for him. Mediation is a step in the right direction even if it doesn’t immediately resolve the custody issue, it can help move it forward.

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