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Is it a sour mood or a sign of parental alienation?

Children are bound to have bad moods, that’s just a reality of parenting. Those bad moods can be especially likely in times of dramatic change, like divorce. Hearing that their parents will be getting divorced can be life-altering news, even if the children in question are fully grown adults. Unfortunately, younger children are often far less able to process the news and express their feelings about the change that divorce brings.

One of the unfortunate realities of co-parenting is that an ex-spouse may take advantage of the confusion that young children deal with. Spiteful co-parents have been known to try to turn children against the other parent. Parental alienation is a real issue, but like we said, bad moods might just be bad moods. Here are some signs that a child’s sour attitude is a sign of an ex-spouse’s manipulation.

What does parental alienation look like?

  • Your child has no grey area in their opinions: If your ex can do no wrong but you can do no right, this stark reality can point to parental alienation.
  • Your child knows way too much: A big part of telling children about your divorce was explaining it in child-appropriate terms. One of the trademarks of parental alienation can be an ex-spouse confiding compromising details (or even just lies) about you to your child. It can be stressful for children to reckon with “adult details,” and it can be an effective way for them to turn against you.
  • Your ex’s living space has a lot more of your kid’s items: Children tend to have favorite toys, special blankets and more. Even if custody/visitation time is an even split, an alienating parent may try to stockpile as many of these sentimental objects at their place as possible.
  • Your ex keeps you in the dark but monitors you: It can be a lot easier for your ex to maintain parental alienation if they check in on you, but keep you in the dark about what they did with their visitation time.

Divorce is hard enough as it is. Managing your own feelings while paying attention to the mixed feelings that children might have can be draining. If those mixed feelings seem to be directed primarily toward you and not your ex, parental alienation may be occurring. Getting in touch with a support system and advocate that can steer things toward peace once more can be an invaluable thing to do.