Divorce takes an inevitable toll on children, but in many cases, it is still the best option. If you have come to this conclusion, navigating the new dynamics of single parenting can be a challenge. Kids will typically adjust to their new living situation, but in some instances, a divorce can trigger a child’s hostility towards one parent. This can be further exacerbated if the other parent encourages such anger towards their ex.
This is called parental alienation, and according to Psychology Today, it is a form of child abuse. If you suspect that your ex is encouraging your children to become hostile towards you, you should be aware of the following three signs:
1. Random acts of defiance
It is not unusual for kids to respond to a divorce with behavioral changes—even to the extent of acting out. This can function as a means of seeking attention or expressing frustration, and like most of the responses kids offer, it likely is not permanent. If your child randomly begins defying only you, though, this can be an indication of a bigger problem, including parental alienation.
2. Verbal expressions of hostility
Sometimes defiance escalates and children verbally express their hostility towards one parent, too. This tends to be more common among adolescents who are already prone to such behavior. With the stress of a divorce added to the mix, they may lash out verbally. This can be symptomatic of parental alienation if a child is echoing hostile language used by the other parent or is lashing out with the other parent’s encouragement.
3. Exclusion from events
Taken to the furthest extreme, children may deliberately attempt to exclude one parent from their life if the other parent manipulates them into doing so. This may manifest in a child requesting that a parent not attend events such as sports games or school functions. It might also occur if a child knowingly withholds information about events that a parent would want to attend.