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Narcissistic Parental Alienation: What Can You Do?

by | Nov 7, 2022 | 2 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

When it comes to parenting with a narcissistic ex, your child can, unfortunately, get thrown into the middle of the conflict.

Sometimes, one parent will use the child by turning them against the other parent.

In extreme cases, this is called “parental alienation” and can be just as damaging to a child as emotional abuse.

While it happens more often to the parent who does not have day-to-day care of the child, it can occur against custodial parents as well.

Not every narcissistic ex will try to alienate their child from their other parent.

However, being aware of narcissistic parental alienation is important in order to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Keep reading to learn more about parental alienation and what you can do to prevent it or address it if it is happening:

What is Parental Alienation?

Parental alienation is something that occurs when a child refuses to have a relationship with a parent because they were manipulated by the other parent.

While this can happen within intact families, it commonly occurs during a divorce or custody battle and during a split-family situation.

Parental alienation is mainly seen in situations where the custodial or day-to-day parent turns the child against their other parent. However, even if your ex only has parenting time with your child, it is still possible for them to alienate them against you.

When you’re dealing with a narcissistic ex in a parenting situation, it’s likely that they are trying to “get back at you” and maintain control over you – and, sadly, this often involves using their children.

There are many ways a parent can attempt to alienate the child from the other parent, including telling the child that their other parent hates them or criticizing the other parent’s lifestyle and parenting choices.

Some may go as far as to claim that their ex-partner abused them, causing the child to fear their other parent.

Being treated this way can lead to Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), which is not a diagnosable mental health disorder, but it is something discussed in mental health and legal communities.

Whether it’s an official diagnosis or not, parental alienation is highly damaging to a child. It causes feelings of confusion, sadness, and loneliness. A child may question why they still love the alienated parent after being manipulated into hating them.

Whether it’s parental alienation against the mother or parental alienation against the father, the results are still the same.

Warning Signs of Narcissistic Parental Alienation

If you’re worried and concerned that your child may be experiencing parental alienation, here are some signs you should keep an eye out for:

Blame

If your ex is attempting to alienate your child from you, they have likely told them a story about why you broke up – and it’s probably all your fault (according to them).

Your child may blame you for breaking up the family as well as any other problems their other parent is facing.

Spying

Narcissistic ex-partners will often use their child to spy on the other parent and gather information about their life.

I talk a lot about the “Gray Rock” method of dealing with a narcissistic ex, which involves not sharing any details about your life with them. If they are adamant about getting dirt on you, they will use their child.

This can happen directly when the alienating parent interrogates the child for details about your life or in more subtle ways by eavesdropping on your child’s conversations with you.

Interfering With Visitation

During parental alienation, your ex may try to interfere with the visitation schedule by giving the child a choice of whether or not they want to see you – and then convincing them why they don’t.

(By the way, if you have a court order, this behavior is in direct violation of that!)

They may also schedule activities that conflict with the visitation schedule and be unreasonable when it comes to making changes.

This is more likely to happen when you are not the day-to-day parent.

Narcissistic Parental Alienation Syndrome – What Happens to the Child?

When a child rejects one parent to please the other, they can suffer from parental alienation syndrome.

Here are some of the behaviors parental alienation syndrome can cause:

Unjust Criticism

No parent is perfect, and children will get mad at their parents at some point. However, children who are experiencing parental alienation will severely criticize you without a reason.

They may rarely have anything good to say to you or about you. This is because they are hearing harsh criticisms about you from their other parent and believing them because they really have no reason not to.

If you and your child do have fun, they may ask that you not tell their other parent about it.

Support for the Alienating Parent

When your child is being fed lies and fear from their other parent, they will vigorously defend that parent.

Children tend to have “black and white” thinking, so if you’re portrayed as the “bad” parent, then the other parent must be the “good” parent.

However, because they have been manipulated, they will deny any influence the alienating parent has had over them and claim that their feelings are their own.

Lack of Guilt

Most kids will be apologetic when they say mean and hurtful things to their parents or at least show you in some way that they are remorseful.

Alienated children, however, don’t feel bad about the way they mistreat you because they feel justified in their hatred.

How Can You Prevent Narcissistic Parental Alienation?

 

The best thing you can do to deal with parental alienation is to prevent it in the first place!

Here are some ways you can keep your narcissistic ex from alienating your child from you:

Parallel Parenting

Parallel parenting is a way of co-parenting with your ex that limits conflict when it comes to parenting your child.

There are many aspects of parallel parenting that you can implement, such as:

  • Limiting Communication: Limit your communication with your ex to text or email. Having things in written form not only provides you with proof of what is said but it gives your ex fewer opportunities to cause drama. You can choose what you respond to and take the time to respond in a straightforward and business-like manner.
  • Avoiding Emotion: Narcissistic people love to latch onto opportunities to start arguments! By avoiding emotion when you deal with your narcissistic ex, you can avoid conflict and deal with situations in a more civilized way.
  • Gray Rock: Going “Gray Rock” means not sharing any personal details of your life with your ex. This is especially important if you are worried about parental alienation since you are limiting the information your ex can use against you.
  • Staying in Your Own Lane: You can’t control the way your ex parents your child unless your child is in danger. Focus on your own parenting methods and providing the best environment for your child.

You can learn more about parallel parenting here!

Maintain Contact With Your Child

If you are not the custodial parent of your child, meaning that your child spends the majority of time with their other parent, you can prevent parental alienation by maintaining contact with your child.

This means sticking to your visitation and parenting time schedule as well as touching base with your child when you are not together.

When it comes to court orders, no court is going to tell you that you can’t call your child. What they don’t want to see is parents using this communication tool to manipulate the child’s time with the other parent.

But it’s reasonable to expect that a non-custodial parent will want to speak with their child on a regular basis.

Don’t Criticize or Judge What Your Child Has to Say

Ensuring that your child isn’t turned against you involves creating a relationship that is based on openness, honesty, and trust.

When your child does talk to you about what is going on with other parent, simply listen. Validate their feelings by letting them know that it is okay for them to feel the way they feel.

If you criticize or judge what they have to say or harp on them for saying things that aren’t true, your child will shy away from talking to you and gravitate toward what their other parent is telling them.

You can simply say, “I understand that you feel this way, but this is not true.”

Don’t make a huge deal out of proving what they think is wrong, which leads us to the next point…

Show Them You Love Them

When it comes to parental alienation, toxic parents use a lot of words to convince the child that the alienated parent is horrible.

You can’t combat this with more words since this will only lead to confusion for your child.

Instead, show them that you love them with your actions. Make sure your time spent together is quality time, take an active interest in their interests, and praise them for good behavior.

Getting to know your child’s love language is another amazing way that you can connect with them.

Overall, you want to fulfill their emotional needs so that they know you love them and care about them. When they know this, whatever their other parent says about you won’t make sense to them.

What Can You Do if You Suspect Narcissistic Parental Alienation?

Unfortunately, parental alienation does happen, but there are things you can do to help your child and better the situation:

Contact a Psychologist

A psychologist or mental health professional can help you figure out if your child is suffering from parental alienation syndrome.

They can also provide you with tools to help mend your relationship with your child.

Contact a Parental Alienation Lawyer

An experienced family law lawyer can initiate court proceedings if parental alienation is confirmed.

Is parental alienation illegal?

Parental alienation is against the law, so having a parental alienation lawyer will help you navigate the court system and ensure justice for your child.

Keep a Log of Information as Evidence

Write down your child’s behaviors and comments, as well as any occurrences that worry you.

If you have emails or texts from your ex that are malicious in nature, keep these as well.

This information will be useful when it comes to speaking with a psychologist and lawyer.

Dealing With Narcissistic Parental Alienation

It’s hard to believe that people can do such horrible things to their children, but narcissistic individuals only care about themselves and what they can achieve from a situation.

They don’t care about the damage they can do to their little ones.

If you suspect parental alienation is occurring, it’s important to act fast! Speak to a therapist and a lawyer right away.

If your ex has a tendency to be manipulative and controlling, take steps to prevent parental alienation from taking place.

The goal here is not to change your ex but to provide the best life you can for your child.

Have you experienced parental alienation? Share your story in the comments below!

And don’t forget to pin so you have this information on hand.

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Let’s create a supportive community and navigate the complexities of co-parenting with strength and resilience!

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hello yes I’ve been through the hell of parental alienation it was like part of my heart was ripped out and was missing
    I kept what little contact I could with my daughter doing things like having our nails done going to her hairdressing appointments slowly over a year she started talking to me about things she was going through I just listened and I told her if she ever needed me my door was always open to her no matter what no questions asked
    I read as much as I could to understand parental alienation and narcissism
    I worked on rebuilding my life and working with a councillor so I was able to keep things seperate from my daughter how I was hurting etc
    I never gave up hope her brother in early days said to me don’t worry mum she’ll come back when I asked how he knew this he replied because your mum I held onto these words when things were tough I gathered a lot of positive quotes to read and journaled to help myself cope
    Slowly over 4 years our relationship improved in tiny ways but was still strained a lot of the time
    I got a call out of the blue one day from her, mum can I move in with you can you pick me up now
    I dropped everything and picked her up and her belongings I didn’t ask any questions I waited for her to lead I just made her comfortable at home and tried to make her feel loved and safe I was not sure what was going to happen but kept all my thoughts and feelings to myself putting on a calm and relaxed attitude
    It’s been 4 months since she moved back permanently it’s been a bit of a see saw of emotions for us both and I’ve made mistakes but I’ve carried on as best I could showing her love and kindness and turning a blind eye to her often unkind behaviour and words I have slowly introduce some boundaries as she’s lived for 4 years with none
    I continue to read and learn about alienation
    I will continue to show love and kindness and understanding and patients my end goal is to help her heal and grow to be her full potential I can only hope this helps her
    Her father continues to try to regain control calling her all the time so it hasn’t ended and probably won’t until she leaves home in a couple of years but I’m going to try my hardest to give her a positive emotionally intelligent role model who is present and available and unconditionally loves her
    I hope by sharing my story it helps someone else going through parental alienation that their is hope
    Build your life and educate yourself have a wide range of coping strategies including being kind to yourself become as emotionally intelligent as you can keep contact no matter how much the visits hurt little and often and in public places child will feel safe and never give up hope
    They need and love you more than they are able to show or even understand
    With much love I wish you the best in your journey back to a relationship with your children

    Reply
    • Chelsy

      Thank you so much for sharing your story! I am so glad that you and your daughter made it back to each other. <3 You did everything right, and for that, your daughter is in a safe environment with a parent who truly loves her. I hope everyone who reads this article takes the time to read your comment - it's so inspirational!

      Reply

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