Parental alienation takes place when a child aligns himself or herself to one parent and rejects a loving relationship with the other parent.  The rejection does not have any justification.  It is a campaign of denigration against a parent with no valid reasoning.  

The definition of Parental Alienation:

The American  Psychological Association (APA) defines Alienation as, “Estrangement from others, resulting in the absence of close or friendly relationships with people in one’s social group (e.g., family, workplace or community).”

Parental Alienation is further described on Wikipedia like this: “a distinctive and widespread form of psychological abuse and family violence–towards both the child and the rejected parent – that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation and divorce.  Most commonly, the primary cause is a parent wishing to exclude another parent from the life of their child, but other family members or friends, as well as professionals involved with the family (including psychologists, lawyers and judges), may contribute significantly to the process. 

It often leads to the long-term, or even permanent, estrangement of a child from one parent and other family members and, as a particularly adverse childhood experience, results in significantly increased risks of both mental and physical illness for children.”   

When I was going through my divorce one of the first things my younger two children started doing was calling me by my first name. I didn’t understand.  I read a book called, Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard Warshak. One of the first things I learned from that book was that a parent trying to alienate his/her children from the other parent will encourage the children to start calling the alienated parent by their first name. It is a lot easier for a child to disrespect or mistreat a parent if they are not calling them “mom” or “dad.”

I started putting the pieces together. The distance growing between my children and me was confusing.  I didn’t understand their lack of eye contact, communication, rudeness and most of all blame. They blamed me for everything and glorified their father. I could do nothing right and he could do nothing wrong.


There are two types of Parent Alienation:  

  • Unintentional alienation. This is a mom saying to a child, “I am sorry that I can’t buy you those new shoes today but your dad won’t give me enough money to buy them.”  In this instance, the child will start resenting the dad for not giving his/her mother enough money for the shoes.


  • Intentional alienation. Much more serious than the first type, intentional alienation is calculated and orchestrated.  An Alienator is an abusive parent who values control more than the well-being or happiness of their child. One parent puts a wedge between a child and the other parent and attempts to cut the other parent out of the child’s life – sometimes before, during, and after divorce. It is gut wrenching and devastating for the parent being alienated and damaging to the child(ren). You don’t even know it is happening until the damage is done. 

My situation was intentional alienation. Older kids, as mine are, can be subject to this type of alienating “brainwashing” as well. Two of my children were over 18 by the time my divorce was final.  In the first few months of the separation my youngest child was bombarded with text messages and phone calls from his dad during the times when he would stay with me. When I say bombarded, I mean 30 to 40 texts in one evening and at least 10 phone calls.  

On one particular evening my youngest son got 53 text messages from his dad. Things like:

  • “What is she doing now?” 
  • “What is she wearing?”
  • ”What is she eating?” 
  • “How is her demeanor?” 
  • “How is she wearing her hair?” 

Every single response from my child was met with negative and exaggerated comments back from his dad.  My son responds, “She is no fun” and his dad responds back, “She is, with some people.” 

He is encouraging the kids to call me by my first name.  The word “mom” isn’t in their vocabulary anymore. On the nights when I don’t have my boys I will call them to say goodnight.  They burp and clap into the phone and hang up on me.  I can hear the others laughing in the background.