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Why Children Typically Side with the Custodial Parent, Especially if They are Emotionally Abusive

Most cases of parental alienation occur in dissolved marriages/relationships, break ups, and divorces in which theres a high degree of conflict, emotional abuse, and/or mental illness or personality disorders.

Why Kids Usually Side with the Custodial Parent Especially if They're Emotionally Abusive
By Dr T

Do your children refuse to see you since you and your ex separated? When you actually get to see your kid(s), do they lash out at you? Do they know things about your break up or divorce that they shouldn't know? Do they diagnose or berate you by using adult terms and expressions that are beyond their years?

If so, youre probably experiencing the effects of parental alienation or hostile aggressive parenting. It's normal to have hard feelings at the end of a significant relationship, however, you have a choice about how you handle it.

Most cases of parental alienation occur in dissolved marriages/relationships, break ups, and divorces in which theres a high degree of conflict, emotional abuse, and/or mental illness or personality disorders.

If you were emotionally abused by your ex while you were still together, then your kid(s) learned some powerful lessons about relationships, especially if you had a no talk policy about the rages, yelling, and verbal attacks. Children are adversely affected by witnessing constant conflict and emotional abuse, no matter their age.

Emotionally abusive women and men are scary when on the attack, which probably makes it all the more confusing to see your ex turn your child(ren) against you. Don't your kids see how out of whack their mom or dad is being? Don't they know that you love them and how much you want to be in their lives? Don't they realize they need you now more than ever? Yes and no.

On some level, they do know this. Nonetheless, theyre lashing out at you like mini-versions of your ex. Why?

Its not that confusing if you think about it from a childs perspective. Children depend utterly upon their custodial parent. Seeing mom or dad lose it and out of control is anxiety provoking, if not downright terrifying. The following are possible reasons why your exs campaign of parental alienation may be successful.

1) You left them alone with the crazy person. You got out and they didn't. Theyre mad that youre not there anymore to intervene, buffer, protect, or take the brunt of it.

2) Self-preservation. They see how your ex is treating you because she or he is angry with you. Your kid(s) don't want your exs wrath directed at them. Its like siding with the bully at school so they don't beat the cr@p out of you.

3) Fear of loss. If they make your ex mad they worry that they'll be emotionally and/or physically banished, too. This is especially true if your ex used to shut you out, give you the cold shoulder, and/or ignore you when she or he was upset with you. Your kids probably fear your ex will do this to them if they don't go along with him or her.

4) They're mad at you. Youre no longer physically present at home, which they experience as psychological loss. Many kids experience this as betrayal and/or abandonment. Even if they can recognize that you didn't have a happy marriage, they still want mom and dad to be together.

Loss, whether its physical (death) or psychological (divorce), requires a mourning period. Children aren't psychologically equipped to handle grief and mourning. Pending other developmental milestones, kids don't have the psychological capacity to successfully navigate loss until mid-adolescence. If you'd died, they could idealize your memory. However, youre alive and chose to leave (or your ex chose for you). How do you mourn the loss of someone whos not dead? It takes a level of intellectual sophistication children don't possess not to vilify the physically absent parent - especially when your ex isn't capable of it as an adult.

5) Rewards and punishment. Your ex rewards the kids (material goods, praise, trips and fun activities - probably with your support money - oh the irony) for siding with her or him, being cruel to you, or cutting you off. If your kid(s) stand up for you or challenge your exs smear campaign, theyre chastised, lose privileges, or have affection withheld from them. Remember how your ex used to treat you when she or he was displeased? Its way scarier when youre a kid. You have options as an adult that your children don't.

6) The good son or daughter. They see how upset and out of control your ex is and want to take care of and make her or him better. They try to do this by doing what your ex wants, which is being hostile toward you and/or excluding you from their lives. This creates what psychologists refer to as the parentified child. Parentification forces a child to shoulder emotions and responsibilities for which she or he isn't developmentally prepared.

Emotional parentification is particularly destructive for children and frequently occurs in parental alienation cases. The custodial parent implicitly or explicitly dumps their emotional needs on the child. The child becomes the parents confidante, champion/hero and surrogate for an adult partner. This is extremely unhealthy as it robs these kids of their childhood and leads to difficulty in having normal adult relationships later in life.

7) Power and control. They see the power your ex wields by behaving in an abusive and hurtful way toward you. They can wield the same power by acting out and hurting you, too. A child or teenagers first taste of power can be thrilling for them. Of course, what theyre learning from you ex is how to gain control by being an emotionally abusive bully.

8) It's good to be the victim. The more your ex plays the professional victim to friends, family and the legal system, the more benefits she or he gains - deferential treatment, sympathy, power, and money. The kids pick up on this victim mentality and behaviors and use it to net their own gains.

A combination of the above reasons probably applies to your child(ren) siding with your ex, particularly when you've been a good and loving parent. Its demoralizing to have your kid(s) slap or push you away each time you reach out to them. Its maddening that family court, in many cases, is blind to the abuses of parental alienation. Try to keep in mind that most children aren't consciously aware that the above phenomena are occurring. Of course, that doesn't make it any easier to be the emotional and financial punching bag for your ex and children.
Thanks for posting this. If only it went on to explain how best to handle it when the other parent uses these tactics. Not retaliating or denigrating them to the kids and trying to ignore it is the best I've come up with so far.  

Same Here

That explains why the daughter I was so close to is now so negative around me. Well actually when she knows her Mother is around. So many times I hear the "You left us" and its hard to explain I only left her Mother. When I have her by myself she is the same happy girl I always knew but when at home with her Mother I become the enemy.

I'm now going through the process of trying to get some formal regular contact (50/50 would be nice). My ex unfortunatly wants to discuss everything with my daughter of course rejecting any proposal I make. After living in an abusive relationship with my ex I can sure see that my daughter has to side with her Mother. I dont want her to take anyones side all I want is the best for her.

It sure hurts when you see you lovely daughter turning away from you.
Sorry to read that dad58. My husband has suffered the same thing. The only bright side is that one day,eventually the child will mature and make her own decisions about you. At the moment the mum has poisened her, but have hope. You only need to watch shows like "Find My Family" to see that it may take years,but, eventually we all want to know our parents. Its so sad, but you just have to take the high road, she will soon grow up and realise how biased mum is.
problem is the" lost years" and the irreprable long term harm caused to alienated children…in Brazil you ring the cops and they deal with the alienator parent..makes a mockery of the best interests facade perpetrated in this jurisdiction
This is a wonderful post… helping making it clear to people what 'the heck' is going on for them.

You are NOT alone… it is VERY common and we Target Parents need to UNITE to bring changes.

A parent wanting to 'ask the child' any time you want to arrange something… it's horrendous and you're stuck in a deep dark hole without a rope, whilst everyone around you can't quite grasp you're seemingly exaggerated concerns… it all looks so damn innocent on the outside.

Dr Richard Warshak in the US has an AMAZING web site, and advice, parent support blogs. My blog site Parental Alienation CENTRAL - Australia was created for bringing us all together, a REGISTER has been creating and growing. target parents are all too dispersed, so we need to get together.

I've been approaching Dept Education.. because they're such a significant agency that (claims neutrality) but is horrendous in how it ALLOWS parental alienation to flourish.

Join in, find a local support/action group - share your existing one on the PA CENRAL site.. and this thing WILL BECOME a phenomena of the past..!!!!

Keep strong with your confused suffering little ones… you know it's not their fault, but look up some advice on Warshak's site to get some good tips on your approach. His book: DIVORCE POISON is an essential book to keep with you. ALSO DR AMY BAKER has a wonderful 'hand book' (in the US) called "I don't want to choose" … if your child is the right age, and you still have contact with them… or get (another adult) to go through this wonderful booklet with them, it's gives them critical thinking skills and much more.. to help them through. There are things you can do to inform the school about PA also.. see my site for the details and a fantastic BROCHURE to share around to EVERYONE…..

Last edit: by MikeT

All Target Parents of Alienation, lets Unite to make an impact where it's needed for our lost children ..
Thanks mate..i am struggling to stay alive through this horrific experience and I am ordinarily very tough and resilient.

I miss my daughter so much. She was a happy stable confident child in a happy home 12 months ago.

Then her PhD psychologist university lecturer psycho mother flips when her past prostitute history catches up with her and she begins a campaign to visciously destroy me in every respect when i warn my kids about her mental health and dark past to protect them.  she then starts the revenge…

 She tricked my GP into saying I should be in involuntary mental health when i was functioning as a litigating solicitor (my GP never told me about this at all ..he just gave her a medico legal report while I was his patient..all behind my duty of care..I went to see him he said i was depressed and gave me a script for some anti depresssants..I wasnt depressed just cycling through deep grief at the impending loss of my childrens intact family…he never contacted me again to say hey its time for the rubber room.I have no mental history or issues ever… she charmed the goat and he just gave her the report !!!! which I found out about many months later in litigation),

 she then set me up on a gun charge with police to bolster up a national false abduction alert .She jumps into the family court waving a crimestopers ad based on an abduction that didnt occur while I am my back in a cell because police refused watchouse bail because she falsely represented that i was at risk of harm. The police were duped on the abduction allegation (no court orders in place and I had the kids with her knowledge and consent half way through a make up abduction in law or fact remotely possible in reality !!!!)and wanted to cover their butt the best they could so they tried to dirty me up best they could.

She then coerces my 11 year old daughter to give police a statement which is marked "of no evidentiary value", she then implies to my daughter I am going to kill her because she gave the statement My daughter ha sexplicit dreams of being killed by me.She systematically alienates my daughter who is a very intelligent child to the point of incredulous disbelief….she then creates a legend of me and cuts her daughter off from external school counselling support so the child had no external reference to objectivity.

.its a movie..a police prosecutor tells me he agrees she set me up then denies he said that, a registrar has after hours chats about substantive matters to be heard the next day with the mothers solicitor ,…

 a family consultant lies and misrepresents in reports ( i taped her interview), when i bring an application for her discharge there is a major uproar about the fact that i have independent evidence proving the truth of my assertions against the family consultant..that evidence th erecording of the interview is seized..the truth scares this system.

I put acomplaint in against the family consultant who the next day elevates the child from "sweet" 16 days earlier to "mature" ( to lay the foundation for the childs views) and recommends to leave it to the child to decide if she wants to see her Dad with the child to think about that possibility once in every 8 months until she turns 15…an 11 year 14 month old severely alienated child whose life has been turned on its head bythe extreme behaviours of a  damaged and disfunctional mother

..a single expert psychiatrist says the DSM is a lot of cr..ap and doesnt make any effort at all to get past her mask to reveal her deep and disfunctional self disordered self… which she conceals with charm and a PhD and the gullible bow around her oblivious to what is actually going on here…he gives her a clean bill of mental health …  .what an ineffectual system.

she admits I shared a close relationship with my daughter and says it was 'wonderful"…sommething changed while my daughter was in her exclusive care !!!!!

She says the reason she wont allow contact is she cant cope with contact…she admits I wouldnt abuse my daughter…what a zoo I am living in
sami said
problem is the" lost years" and the irreprable long termharm caused to alienated children…in Brazil you ring the cops and they deal with the alienator parent..makes a mockery of the best interests facade perpetratedin this jurisdiction
Hopefully (If you can bring yourself to get it done considering the strain you are under) you will write a submission to the Senate enquiry that closes at the end (29th) of April. The PROPOSED removal of the penalties for false allegations will only aggravate this issue and most certainly the new "weasel words" in s60CC will make it even harder to have an ongoing relationship with your child.

Executive Secretary - Shared Parenting Council of Australia
 Was my post helpful? If so, please let others know about the FamilyLawWebGuide whenever you see the opportunity
Thank you for posting this.This will definitely help many people who have been through divorce and are seeing divorce lawyers.I think kids are the one who have to suffer most during divorce and separations of their parents.This post has all the stuff that can help kids and their parents help managing their life and mental health.

Editor said
Please note

Anne Dowden Saxton is the founder and sole practitioner at her Los Angeles County family law firm located in Culver City. With the assistance of her professional staff, she has successfully helped thousands of families deal with divorces, child custody battles, child support and visitation rights issues

Anne, You will find that this site is focussed on Australian and New Zealand issues in Family Separation, Law and Child Support issues… But thanks for visiting and posting here. There is a section in the forums on USA that you may want to assist contributions to.

Last edit: by Dev_MikeT

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