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

April 14, 2023 O'Connor Family Law Family Law

What is Parental Alienation?

The relationship between a parent and child is extremely important. 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 is a different story. Unfortunately, circumstances can sometimes cause a rift in this valuable relationship, leading to the child’s alienation 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. Whether your narcissistic ex has a vendetta against you and wants to damage that bond or let their own emotions get in the way of your child’s best interests, parental alienation can be highly damaging to everybody involved.

It’ll Stir Up Some Strong Emotions

“Reconnecting with your alienated parent can be an emotional rollercoaster for both sides,” says Jenna Shiels, who has experienced parental alienation herself. “Being able to understand your child’s perspective is an important part of being able to heal the broken bonds. Trying to fix something you didn’t break can be frustrating, especially when you feel you didn’t do anything wrong to incur the hate your child may have. But your child, even as an adult, is often just as confused and hurt in their way.”

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.

It can be challenging to know when to continue trying to repair the relationship and when to give time and space to the bond 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 to absorb those resources, it may be able to flourish and become what you had always hoped it would.

Is It Forever?

When you want to give up on an alienated child, it is essential to recognize that taking time and space for both of you does not mean giving up on your relationship. In some situations, stepping back from the relationship may be the best option for everyone involved. You might even eventually be able to sprout that budding bond you genuinely want.

It may be appropriate not to give up on an alienated child but to give space 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 can decide 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 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 they were unfairly alienated. Still, 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.

Suppose you have tried explaining your understanding of everything that happened to no avail. In that case, 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.

Again, another situation where it may be appropriate 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. Parents need to make a genuine effort to restore the relationship with their child, but there comes a point where it may be time to accept that the relationship cannot be fixed.

Suppose the parent has tried therapy, mediation, and other methods to repair the relationship, but the child continues to resist. In that case, 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 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.

Remembering that feeling like you are 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 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.

Seek Support

If you, as a parent, begin feeling anger toward your child for the alienation, it is essential to understand that many factors and circumstances have coalesced to contribute to your child’s worldview. Children should generally not be held responsible for their other parent’s influence 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 dealing with complicated feelings and situations such as those that may arise from parental alienation.

Ultimately, deciding to give space to an alienated child by stepping away from the relationship is complicated and should not be taken lightly. However, there are some situations where it may be the best option for everyone involved.

Parents must make a genuine effort to repair their relationship with their child, recognize when it is time to let go and focus on moving forward. Regardless of the outcome, parents must remember that they can still love and care for their child in other ways and find healing and closure even under challenging circumstances.

We’re Here For You

If you have a family law case involving parental alienation in Massachusetts, you’ve come to the right place. You deserve the care of a team that’s been there. Our parental alienation lawyers are ready to help you determine the best path forward and give you the legal support you need. We’re just a call away. Call 774-703-3755 to be matched with a parental alienation lawyer ready to fight for your rights.