Mediation is a helpful tool to bridge the communication gap between alienated parents. Mediation clients often share that one or more of the children “refuses” to see the other parent or does not want to see the other parent during their designated visitation schedule. Over time, this behavior may result in the other parent becoming alienated. However, all is not lost. Understanding why a child would not want to see the other parent may have less to do with the parent and more about the child’s reaction to the divorce or separation process.
Children are innately wise to the power dynamics between parents, especially during divorce. As parents, we recognize when our children will “play” one parent against the other. For example, child will ask a parent for a new toy, and if denied, will ask the other parent. During the divorce process, parents often give their parental power over to the children out of guilt or worry about the circumstances of the divorce. The child may use this power to exert control over their lives when chaos ensues. As co-parents, it is useful to recognize when our children are using the power play and shift the power back to the parents. This can be difficult for separated parents, but a mediation session can help parents acknowledge the dynamics and balance the power.
Going to War
When the child is in the midst of a custody war, the child may believe they have to pick sides in the battle. This belief is a way of managing the situation the parents have put them in. A decision to choose one parent over the other may be a coping mechanism for the child during divorce or separation. If an alienated parent gives up, the war is over in the child’s mind. Noticing if this circumstance has been created by the parent’s behavior is a step in the right direction. If you are at war, and your child is choosing a side in the battle, it is time to revisit the terms of your parenting arrangement with your mediator. Going back to court is not the answer; it only perpetuates the ongoing combat between parents.
New Significant Other
I have mediated several cases where a parent has moved a significant other into the household while the child is still processing the loss of the family unit. The child is unable to cope with the change and decides they will not go to that parent’s home, causing that parent to become alienated. The child may express negative feelings (anger, rejection, fear) towards the parent, resulting in a refusal to see the alienated parent. Prior to moving the new significant other into the household, it may be wise to return to mediation to formulate a plan. A plan may include the gradual introduction of the new partner to the children and transitioning to the new household. During mediation, agreements would be made between the co-parents about communication, discipline, and decision-making within the new household. The co-parents would work together to ease the children into the fold.
If you or your co-parent notices these patterns that can lead to parental alienation, please consider mediation first. When a situation arises where a child does not want to see the other parent, it may be time to revisit your parenting arrangement. It is normal and expected to adjust the parenting plan from time to time to meet the needs of the co-parents and the children. Please press the pause button before rushing to file a motion with the court. Court is NOT the answer. A mediation session just might be all your family needs.
Act early, before parental alienation becomes an issue. If you and your co-parent would like more information on mediation or would like to schedule a consultation, click here: http://clementmediation.com