What is Parental Alienation?
It is a behaviour, also known as Hostile Aggressive Parenting, (HAP). It’s usually done by separated parents and is directed at children with the intent to align the child with the alienating parent, and (usually) against the non-custodial parent. But it also goes both ways, with both the custodial and non-custodial parents fighting a proxy battle using their child as a pawn.
An example may be: “Your dad doesn’t want to be with us, – that’s why he moved away,” or something along that line. There are as many examples as there are children of divorced parents. Another example might be a casual comment to the kids, “A good parent who really loves her children would be on time.” It can also be in non verbal forms, where a child brings home a gift and the parent throws it away. Parental Alienation is a form of brainwashing, it is damaging to the relationship the child has with the target parent. It can be conscious or unconscious, deliberate or unintentional. That is why awareness needs to be raised. It not only hurts the other parent, but it creates long-term, if not permanent emotional damage to the child.
If more people knew about how Parental Alienation works, and how damaging these behaviors are to children, then more people can help deal with the problem.
Changing behaviour comes with awareness and education. As the graph at the bottom of this page indicates, parental alienation is a relatively new concept which first began to appear in text in 1965. The two lines show the number of textual references of ‘smoking during pregnancy’ vs. ‘parental alienation’ as composed by the Google Ngram viewer. Compared to the awareness of the harms of ‘smoking during pregnancy’ there is about a 28 year lead time over the damage caused by parental alienation. There is clearly a lot of awareness that needs to be done in order to bring it to the same level of social consciousness as smoking during pregnancy.
There was a time when it was considered normal, if not good parenting to hit children. Smoking and drinking through pregnancy wasn’t given a second thought, it was unintentional damage, but most of society now realizes that such behaviour is unacceptable. It is the same with parental alienation; it is a form of brainwashing, creating short and long-term psychological damage to children which stays with them into adulthood if not their entire life. It is terribly destructive.
Once an adult becomes aware of parental alienation, it becomes impossible to ignore the damage being done. Those that choose to continue along the destructive path will not be able to get away with their behavior as easily if it’s noticed by society. That’s why we need to become conscious of it.
There are many professionals such as judges, reporters, lawyers, psychiatrists, teachers, police officers, who have no idea this problem exists, and may even engage in it themselves unintentionally without being aware of the harm it does.
The aim of the Parental Alienation Awareness Day is to raise awareness of these problems and encourage the alienating parents to stop the abuse, or get the emotional help they need to change their behaviour.