Parental Alienation: How to Help a Polarized Child

Parental Alienation: How to Help a Polarized Child

Parental alienation occurs in high-conflict divorce, where the child is caught between two fighting parents and made to choose sides. While every divorce, every family, and every child is unique there are some universal recommendations for helping the polarized child form and maintain healthy relationship with all of their caregivers. Beyond reunification therapy, how can a child begin to reestablish their relationship with the rejected parent? Benjamin Garber, a PD and Family Consultant lays out several recommendations in his article here.

  • Put the Child’s Safety First: Each allegation of abuse or neglect needs to be evaluated; is the allegation a product of conflict, or does it result in true risk to the child’s safety?
  • Taking a Break Doesn’t Work: Taking a break from the rejected parent will almost never help to improve the relationship between that parent and child; and make resuming contact that much more difficult.
  • Voice, Not Choice: Listening to the child without putting them in a position of choosing between parents is vital. By truly listening we can distinguish needs from wants and helps them to become a part of the process without being forced to pick one parent over the other.
  • Fix the System, Not the Individual or the Dyad: Engaging in productive therapy may require an expansion of our definition. Fulling disengaging the enmeshed parent-child pair and re-engaging the rejected parent requires participation of the entirely family unite; parent’s significant others, siblings and all parties involved may need to provide support if not active involvement in reestablishing healthy norms.
  • Anxiety can Cripple the System: One caregiver’s anxiety regarding the re-integration of the other parent can poisen the process; it is important that the anxiety of the primary parent be addressed so that reconciliation with the other parent is possible.
  • Sometimes, the Rejected Parent has to Step Back and Wait: Some relationships cannot be repaired immediately and when this occurs the rejected parent may need to allow some time for the child to grow and mature. Unlike “taking a break” this requires the parent to remain present and available to the child without being intrusive or “pushing” the child in a way that could cause further resentment.

We understand that divorce can be a harrowing experience emotionally, physically and logistically, which is why we have lawyers here to help. Having an experienced divorce lawyer can make all the difference to your process. Because we focus solely on family law, we understand the dynamics and can help guide you through your divorce. Please contact Elise Buie Family Law Group, PLLC for a consultation regarding your divorce. Also, for more information about collaborative divorce or mediation please visit our website. 


Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe to one or more of our newsletters, delivering meaningful insight on topics that matter to you and your family.
ebl home subscribe image


Latest Blog Posts

Child support is one of the most contentious issues in divorce cases where parties have minor children. Even though Washington state law uses the same complex mathematical formula to determine the amount of child support for each child, there is…

Family law and estate planning often intersect. This is particularly true when contemplating divorce, remarriage, or blending families.

At some point during your divorce case, friends and family members whose own marriages ended in divorce probably told you that it gets better, and it does. Of course, from your perspective, getting out of a bad marriage might be…

Co-parenting over a long distance when you are a non-residential parent does not have to equate to sacrificing involvement in your children’s lives. But it likely does mean you will have to make tweaks in your communication and parenting style to accommodate the new living arrangement.

If you have a significant amount of money saved, you might be considering giving some of it away while you are still alive via what is known in estate planning jargon as a living inheritance. Depending on your desires, you can give your beneficiaries a portion of or all of the inheritance you intend to give them.

Estate planning is commonly associated with preparing for asset distribution and financial management in the event of the estate plan owner’s incapacitation or death. However, an estate plan can protect more than just people and what they have worked so hard during their lifetimes to build. A carefully crafted Washington state estate plan can also protect pets.

Despite being divorced, you may still be able to collect social security benefits through your ex-spouse. Even if you went through a high-conflict divorce or are not on good terms with your ex-spouse currently, they cannot stop you from collecting these benefits if you are eligible. Likewise, your ex-spouse does not need to permit you to apply for social security benefits or have previously completed an application themselves.

If you live in Washington State and have an estranged family member, are you worried about them contesting your will after you die? Well, don’t worry quite yet. There are a variety of criteria an individual must meet to contest a will in the state of Washington.

Depending on your situation, there might also be measures you can take as you revisit your existing estate plan or create a new one to cause them to think twice about doing so. Here is what you need to know about whether an estranged family member can contest a will in Washington state.

When parents go through a divorce, child custody can be one of the hardest issues to deal with. But increasingly in American households, pets are part of the family, and separating can create similar concerns over who gets the family pet.

As a Seattle entrepreneur, you’ve undoubtedly dedicated countless hours and resources to building a successful business. You’ve dotted all of your I’s and crossed all of your T’s. But have you considered what will happen to your business after you're…