Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to Navigate

"What does my ex-wife/husband say about me to my children?" is a worry many divorced parents face. If they are victims of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), it is safe to assume negative things are being spoken about them. PAS is when one or both parents try to give their children the impression that their other parent is "the bad parent" to cause the child or children to reject and fear the other parent. This behavior is detrimental to relationships between parents and their children. 

Even though PAS often happens after marriage or partnership ends, it may also occur in two-parent households. There are a few practical steps to take if you and your children are estranged from you; regardless of the cause, you should act quickly.


Understand What is Happening. 

The official definition of PAS, according to, "is a strategy whereby one parent intentionally displays to the child unjustified negativity aimed at the other parent. The purpose of this strategy is to damage the child's relationship with the other parent and to turn the child's emotions against that other parent."

Signs of an Alienated child

Children who are alienated may have negative emotions toward the targeted parent but ambiguous or insignificant motivations for them. 

They may declare, "I refuse to see my father!" She may find it difficult to justify saying, "He does not assist me with my schoolwork." 

Or: "He dresses sloppily." Or: "He consistently gets me irritated." 

Another may declare, "I despise my mother!" Once again, the explanations are unclear or superficial: She is very authoritarian. "She doesn't understand me like my dad." 

These youngsters claim that they are terrified of the other parent, yet their conduct demonstrates the exact reverse; they have no guilt or fear when they blame or reject that parent. Some of them talk poorly about the "rejected" parent to others, yet they relax when they are with that parent. Others flee instead of spending time with the rejected parent.

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It is essential to differentiate between "alienating" and "gatekeeping" behaviors. On a fundamental level, gatekeeping may be justifiable or not. When a parent is a danger to himself or the child, it may be appropriate to restrict or limit the child's contact with the said parent.

But Unjustified gatekeeping does correspond to parental alienation. In circumstances of unjustifiable gatekeeping, an alienating parent may behave in such a manner as to keep the kid from the targeted parent. As a justification for denying the other parent parenting time, the alienating parent may demonstrate inflexibility with the targeted parents' schedule. They might also express how upset they are whenever the kid visits the targeted parent's home, causing the youngsters to dislike parenting-time exchanges. 

The alienating parent may accuse the targeted parent of causing family discord. The alienating parent may remove all pictures and other memories of the targeted parent from home or refuse to discuss the targeted parent. The alienating parent may question the children about the targeted parent and express disdain for the targeted parents' conduct. Before going over to the targeted parent's house, the alienating parent may (unnecessarily) review emergency or 911 procedures with the children.

Excessive participation in the child's life during the other parent's parenting time may also be considered alienating conduct, for example providing the child with alternative means of contacting them, such as instructing the child to contact them at school or providing the child with a personal cell phone to be able to check in on them constantly. 

These are all valid examples of PAS.

Involve a third party.

Have a friend or family member present when speaking with your ex. A third party might help you remain grounded if your co-parent constantly uses manipulation or gaslighting. You may also choose to consult with a certified therapist or family therapist to help you manage these challenging circumstances. In extreme events, you may also wish to consider hiring an attorney, as they have dealt with many PAS cases. 

Write in a journal and document as much as you can when involving an attorney. To establish your case in court, you will need to keep track of everything as it occurs. Documenting everything may not be easy. But It is crucial to provide solid proof that you have been unlawfully excluded from your child's life.


Father and Mother Fighting in a Kitchen



Keep Parenting

Converse with your children, and confirm your affection for them vocally and via your actions regularly. Do not reveal the side that may want to retaliate. Instead, continue to parent as you usually would. Stay involved in any way you can. Attend their school conferences (even if it's at a different time than the other parent) or visit their extracurricular activities. Show them that they are a top priority. Not blaming the children for their unusual behavior towards you is crucial. You must love them and treat them as your priority. Children affected by PAS are usually led to believe falsehoods about the estranged parent via manipulation. Their emotions urge them to adore that parent, but external voices suggest otherwise. PAS is highly distressing and perplexing for youngsters, which is all the more reason why they need your support.

A great way to stay involved with your child, see our interactive box.


Father talking to his son on a bed.


Engage in Personal Development.

Despite the fact that being separated from your children may be one of the most challenging times you've ever had to bear, if you are not cautious, going off of your personal path might ultimately lead to disaster. Surround yourself with protective factors, such as a solid spiritual group, a support system, personal health and well-being, and therapy. Utilize this opportunity to construct a stronger foundation than ever before. This will give you the confidence and the motivation to keep trying for your children. 

Final Thoughts

If you are experiencing issues with Parental Alienation Syndrome, or PAS, it is important to seek support and guidance in order to navigate these difficult disconnects. By engaging in personal development and surrounding yourself with protective factors, you can work towards building a stronger foundation that will help you maintain healthy relationships with your children despite the separation. Remember, it is never too late to take steps towards healing and reconnecting with your children, no matter what challenges have come before. With the right mindset and support, you can overcome Parental Alienation Syndrome and continue to be a positive, loving presence in your children's lives.

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