When It Feels Like It’s Time to Give Up on an Alienated Child

father and child walking on the beach in the forest with a sunrise in the background

The relationship between a parent and child is an extremely important one. Perhaps it is even one of the most important relationships in life… after all, you can make new friends but making a new parent-child bond, well that’s a different story. Unfortunately, sometimes circumstances arise that can cause a rift in this valuable relationship, leading to the child becoming alienated from the parent. Parental alienation occurs when one parent intentionally or unintentionally turns the child against the other parent, creating a strained relationship between them.

When a child becomes alienated, it can be a painful and frustrating experience for the parent who wants a strong bond with their child. The parent may feel that they have failed their child, and may struggle with guilt, anger, sadness, and a tidal wave of other emotions. They may even misplace these feelings onto their child rather than the factors that caused such alienation to occur. It can be difficult to know when to continue trying to repair the relationship, and when to give time and space to the bond that you hope will one day flourish. Some things are like gardening- if you stand over a plant and block the sunlight, rain, and other resources from reaching the seedling, it may struggle to sprout. But if you take a step back and allow it absorb those resources, it may be able to flourish and become what you had always hoped it would.

When you feel like you want to give up on an alienated child, it is important to recognize that taking time and space for both of you does not have to mean giving up on your relationship. There are some situations where taking a step back from the relationship may be the best option for everyone involved and might even eventually be able to sprout that budding bond you truly want.

One situation where it may be appropriate not so much to give up on an alienated child but to give space is when the child is an adult and has made it clear that they do not want a relationship with the parent. As children grow up and become adults, they have the right to make their own decisions about who they want to have in their lives. If the child has made it clear that they do not want a relationship with the parent, it may be time to respect their wishes and give the child time to work through everything that they’ve been through on their own or with the help of other members of their network. A parent may make a good faith effort to explain to their child why they feel that they were unfairly alienated from them, but at the end of the day, it is the decision of any adult whether or not they wish to have a relationship with another individual. If you have tried explaining your understanding of everything that happened to no avail, you can ask your child if they would consider going to therapy with you to see if professional intervention might help both of you work through the difficulties that have arisen in your parent-child relationship.

Another situation where it may be appropriate, again, not necessarily to give up on an alienated child, but to redirect focus is when the parent has tried everything to repair the relationship, but nothing has worked. It is important for parents to make a genuine effort to repair the relationship with their child, but there comes a point where it may be time to accept that the relationship cannot be fixed. If the parent has tried therapy, mediation, and other methods to repair the relationship, but the child continues to resist, it may be time to let go and focus on healing and moving forward. Sometimes, the best thing for an alienated child is time and space. They may come to realize the alienation when they are older and while the lost time may cause pain, it could ultimately be what is best for the child.

It is important to remember that giving up on an alienated child does not mean giving up on being a parent. Even if the relationship with the child is strained or non-existent, the parent can still continue to love and care for their child in other ways. They can focus on taking care of their own emotional needs, and may be able to find ways to contribute to their child's life from a distance by saving money for the child to inherit when they are older or determining other ways to support their child.

If, as a parent, you begin feeling anger towards your child for the alienation, it is important to understand that many factors and circumstances have coalesced to contribute to your child’s worldview. Children should generally not be held responsible for the influence that their other parent has had over them. It is not your child’s fault that the other parent has (purposefully or mistakenly) alienated them from you. Therapy may be a way to work through these feelings as they arise and help you determine the best way to move forward as a parent. It is always a good idea to consult a therapist or expert when attempting to deal with difficult feelings and situations such as those that may arise from parental alienation.

In conclusion, the decision to give up on an alienated child by taking a step away from the relationship is a difficult one that should not be taken lightly. However, there are some situations where it may be the best option for everyone involved. It is important for parents to make a genuine effort to repair the relationship with their child, but also to recognize when it is time to let go and focus on moving forward. Regardless of the outcome, it is important for parents to remember that they can still love and care for their child in other ways, and that they can find healing and closure even in difficult circumstances.