It is a basic and fundamental right that a parent be able to enjoy the company of his or her own child; one that has been promoted and protected by the U.S. Supreme Court. Divorce does not diminish that right, whether you are the primary residential parent or not. If you are the primary custodial parent, you have the responsibility to maintain and foster that relationship with the other parent. Admittedly, this is not always an easy task. After all, you divorced that person for a reason, but you still need to make sure that your child has a relationship with his or her parent because that role is not changed by divorce.
There has been a lot of talk about alienation in recent years and as with many things, the term is overused to a great extent. However, it is important to recognize and realize that alienation does not always come with a flashing sign. It can often be more subtle than you think and you might be guilty of it without even realizing it. Children are very perceptive; they pick up on their parent’s disapproval even if it is not “said” out loud. It can be implied in ways we are not even thinking about. The issue is that children that are already uneasy about the divorce and the “loss” of one parent, will be very conscious not to want to displease their primary residential parent. They may begin resisting going for parenting time with the other parent if they receive an unspoken message that mom or dad is unhappy about the interruption or about having to drive them. Or, they may simply be rebelling because they would rather just play videogames at home but they also know that they won’t be “forced” to go by the custodial parent.
It is important to remember that children need both their parents in their lives. While I would not go so far as to call the examples listed herein “alienation,” as that is a much more pervasive pattern of behavior, it is still important to be cognizant of the emotional cues we are giving our children. Regardless of what you personally think about him or her now, always bear in mind that this is your child’s parent and always will be. Any disparaging remark about him or her is an indirect comment about your child and could cause damage to their self-esteem. A strong relationship between parent and child is just as important to your child’s development as taking their vitamins. Keeping a civil relationship with your ex and keeping things positive and upbeat for your children is the best thing you can do for them during your divorce. Posted by Elizabeth A. Calandrillo, Esq.