parental alienation

How do I deal with my child rejecting me?

It doesn’t make any sense, we used to be so close, what happened?

Children rejecting their parents goes against everything we know about attachment and parenting.  We are biologically programmed to NEED our parents for survival so when a child turns away from that, it’s a sign of deep emotional and psychological trauma.  

Having worked within Child Protection for many years, I have seen children who have been severely neglected by their parents (through substance misuse or mental health) cling to them like a lifeboat. That’s how parents feel to children.  In a scary world, their parents are (on a biological level) their protectors.

Sadly for many children the reality is that it is their parents who they cling to, who they see as their protector, who are really the ones who are putting them at risk.

But a child does not usually comprehend that.  In many cases they actually profess MORE love for the high risk parent because they need it more.  They have learnt that they need to work extra hard to get their needs met by that parent and so they do exactly that.  They become so eager to please that parent that they can be controlled and will surrender their own wants, needs, thoughts and feelings just so that they can get what they believe they need (attachment) from this parent.

Signs of an insecure ambivalent attachment:

A child’s anxiety and uncertainty are evident as when the incident becomes very upset at separation from the caregiver and both resists and seeks contact at reunion

parental alienation

So what happens when a child completely rejects a parent?

 

At the core of the rejection is the complete suppression of the child’s attachment bonding motivations towards you, a healthy and available parent. This occurs when the child is put in a loyalty conflict position where they have to align with the higher risk parent in order to retain a relationship with them. This is induced with subtle and covert behavioural manipulations.  The essence of which is a clear message to the child – “it is not safe to love this parent, I am the only parent who can love and protect you, if you show any affection for that parent you will not receive love from me”.

 

It’s important for you to understand this process as it will help you with dealing with the rejection.  It shows that you have done nothing wrong.  That your child is under enormous pressure and has no choice but to reject you.  

 

At this point many parents will realise the abusive nature of the behaviour of the other parent and go to Family Court to ensure they remain an active part in their child’s life.  Whilst I appreciate there is little option but to do this, I do feel it is important that you face the rejection and the emotions that brings up first so that you can present the as the healthy, available parent your child needs and remembers.

5 Stages of



  • Shattering – you are in shock, panic and bereft of life’s worth and meaning. Suicidal feelings are normal. You may also begin to feel old feelings of helplessness and dependency


  • Withdrawal – this is an addiction response where you crave the child, feel physical symptoms of withdrawal (unable to sleep, weight loss, anxiety and fatigue (physical and emotional)


  • Internalising – your self esteem suffers real damage, you begin to supress your anger and turn it on yourself or others (The Spring Effect). You may be pre-occupied with feelings of regret and play over in your mind what you might have done differently


  • Rage – as the anger begins to surface it can be used either positively or negatively (positive – regain self esteem and find a way forward/negatively – develop agitated depression and take your anger out on others who you feel responsible for making this better)


  • Lifting – the range has brought your emotions out and that can begin the process of feeling “normal” again. You are able to feel more positive about the sitation and feel stronger and hopeful

Whereever you are at in the process now, know that your feelings are normal and that you will move onto the next stage when you are ready.  



  • Do be kind to yourself


  • Do surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally


  • Do get professional support if you get stuck at any stage



  • Don’t blame yourself


  • Don’t underestimate the emotional toll this is taking


  • Don’t feel ashamed of what has happened (shame keeps you stuck)

Dealing With Anxiety

Part of our series of Free Webinars on Surviving Parental Alienation

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