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Parent-Trashing Can Cause Depression in Children

Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) — a series of behaviors by one parent to create physical and emotional distance between a child and the target parent — is an extreme version of a common problem. In most divorces, parents find themselves occasionally venting angry, bitter and hurt feelings about their former spouse to the child or children they share. While this seems unavoidable at times, psychological studies have shown that such behaviors wreak havoc on the mental health of children.

Whether conscious or unconscious, the act of alienating a child from a parent works against a child’s nature. Children are naturally loyal to both parents, even to parents who are mentally unstable, abusive, addicted or rarely present. When one parent establishes a pattern of alienating behaviors between the child and the target parent — including criticizing, disparaging or demeaning the parent — the child develops an internal sense that their natural instinct to love both parents is wrong.

How can parental alienation affect my child?

In behavioral terms, the psychological assault on the child’s inner world can manifest in these ways:

  • Low self esteem
  • Self-blame and self loathing
  • Depression — ranging from mild to severely debilitating
  • Suicidal ideation — can lead to suicide attempts, both superficial and lethal
  • Anger — can be toward both the alienating parent and the target parent
  • Violent behavior — at home, at school or in the public sphere
  • Self-destructive behavior — drugs, alcohol, self-mutilation, eating disorders

Recent research has shown that extreme cases of PAS can lead to symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, including an inability in the child to sleep, attend school or function within any intimate relationship inclusive of parents or siblings.

What can I do to protect my child from psychological harm?

As PAS gains recognition in both the mental health and legal fields, more options become available to parents who are fighting for the health and well-being of their children. In an increasing number of cases, judges are recognizing the detrimental effects of PAS and re-assigning time-sharing arrangements where appropriate. A parent who is unsuccessful in maintaining ties with an alienated child can ask the court to order therapy for the child, even in the absence of contact with the target parent. In many cases, psychological intervention can help a child regain inner balance and can lead to reconciliation with the alienated parent.

If your ex is interfering with your relationship with your child in any way, speak to an experienced family law attorney in Boca Raton immediately. We can uphold your right to a strong and healthy relationship with your child.

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