One of the saddest outcomes of a divorce with children happens when one parent attempts to poison the hearts and minds of the children.
First identified in the 1980s by Dr. Richard Gardner, the Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) finds a variety of outlets that all make a child a victim of a parent’s inability to rise to the admittedly difficult task of coparenting with a former spouse. These include the following:
> Speaking badly (“badmouthing”) the absent parent in he presence of the child or children. For example, a parent may suggest or say directly that the financial hardships of divorce happened because the absent parent choose top spend money of a new partner.
> Making the child privy “to the details of the divorce and the ongoing conflict between the parents.”
> Using body language to communicate dislike for the absent parent.
“Such body language sends a negative message without a word being spoken. Children are smart and know that a roll of the eyes is a dismissive gesture. One clearly meant to send the message that the other parent is stupid or wrong in some way.”
> Refusing “to be around the other parent or to co – parent.”
> Accusing the other parent of “sexual, physical or emotional abuse.”
Divorced parents must parent cooperatively and they must put the needs of the child ahead of their own. “Children who have to live with the unresolved conflict and anger of their parents suffer tremendously. Add to the normal stress of separation and divorce the feeling that the child should choose between the parents and you can cause damage that lasts a lifetime. A child is powerless when it comes to ending the conflict he/she is witnessing. They may feel that if they make a choice it will lessen the conflict they have to live with. One parent can cost their child the other parent and their only motivation is revenge, fear, anger or jealousy. It’s a terrible price for children to have to pay in an attempt to assuage a parent’s feelings.”