All children are different, so they react differently to their parents’ divorce. Some may lash out while others withdraw.
As a parent, you may do your best to support your child and preserve the parent-child relationship during this tough time for your family. However, you may notice that there are some shifts in your relationship. Perhaps your child does not open up to you as much, or you feel they are giving you the cold shoulder.
This can be worrisome. You may fear: is this parental alienation?
Know the signs of parental alienation
According to Psychology Today, parental alienation is an issue where the child’s other parent manipulates the child in an effort to isolate you from them. They may badmouth you to the child or try to monopolize parenting time.
This is a very serious matter in a divorce that can harm both you and your child now and in the long run. It is critical to be aware of the signs of parental alienation in these cases – but also the difference between parental alienation and your child’s reaction to the divorce.
Alienation v. the child’s reaction
Parental alienation occurs as a result of the other parent’s actions and efforts. If the other parent is not attempting to alienate you, then your child’s actions may simply be their reaction to the divorce. PsychCentral notes that it is possible for a child to prefer one parent during and after the divorce.
While it can be painful if a child acts differently towards you and “chooses a side” in the divorce, remember that this is often temporary. You may be able to take certain steps under North Carolina law to protect your parental rights if alienation occurs. However, if there is no parental alienation, the steps you take will look very different.
What can you do about your child’s reaction?
Neither parental alienation nor a negative reaction from your child is easy to handle. Even so, there are ways you can approach your child if they have a negative reaction. These can include:
- First discussing matters with your co-parent to eliminate risks of parental alienation
- Being present for your child, and open to talking about their emotions
- Avoiding trying to “make up for” the divorce by purchasing excessive gifts for them
- Always prioritizing your child’s best interests
Divorce is not always easy on a family. Often, your child simply needs time to process their emotions on the subject. Supporting your child the best you can is what matters.