IS YOUR CHILD REJECTING ONE PARENT? part three
© 2011 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.
WHY DO ALIENATED CHILDREN FEEL SO STRONGLY? Alienated children generally show intensely negative emotions and an absence of ambivalence. New research on the brain suggests that this may be the result of the unconscious and nonverbal transfer of negative emotions from parent to child. The parent’s intense angry outbursts (even if they are rare), intense sadness, and intensely negative statements about the other parent may be absorbed unconsciously by the child’s brain, without the child even realizing it. The child then develops intensely negative emotions toward the other parent (or anyone the upset parent dislikes), but doesn’t consciously know why. This may explain the vague or minor reasons given by alienated children for intensely rejecting a good parent. This spilling over of negative emotions from upset parent to child may have begun years before the divorce, so that the child is very tuned in to the upset parent, and automatically and instantly absorbs their emotions and point of view.
DOES CUSTODY MAKE A DIFFERENCE? If one parent has almost all of the parenting time, then the child will not have his or her own experiences with the other parent to know that he or she is not bad. Most states expect children to have substantial time with both parents – except in cases of abuse. Ironically, the amount of time is generally not the biggest factor. The biggest factor is if one parent is constantly spilling over intensely negative emotions to the child about the other parent, while the other parent is following court orders and not addressing these issues at all. For this reason, children can become alienated against either a non-custodial parent or a custodial parent. This can be either the father or the mother. It’s like a bad political campaign, with one side campaigning hard and the other side not campaigning at all.
Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.