Hostile aggressive parenting (HAP)
- Often seen in high-conflict situations where an adult is unable to get over the separation and uses the child to control or seek revenge on the target parent. These parents cannot acknowledge their child’s needs, may view children as belonging just to them and often cannot see the damage they are inflicting on their children.
- Sometimes these types of situations can develop so a child is significantly influenced by one parent to completely reject the other parent, placing them in a situation where they must view one parent as bad and one parent as good. This leaves no space for a child to love both parents. The child is forced to deny or reject a part of themselves. Any intervention should be guided by the assessment of a qualified professional.
- Can extend beyond the parent-child relationship and include other significant adults in a child’s life such as grandparents or step-parents.
- It is important to remember, however, to consider all possible causes when a child distances themselves from a parent. It may not be the fault of the other parent. HAP does not always lead to the child’s rejection of the target parent. But it greatly interferes with the development of a healthy parent child relationship.
Here are some tips for managing these situations:
- Understand the problem so that you can act before things get worse.
- Seek professional support to help you manage the stress and emotional drain.
- Seek good legal representation when necessary. Ensure your lawyer is educated about Hostile Aggressive Parenting.
- Behave with integrity. You may not have control over the other parent’s actions, but you can control how you handle the situation with your children.
- Maintain contact and be consistent with your children.Despite their attempts to reject you, follow through with what you say you will do.
- Offer children an alternative perception of reality whenever possible. It is okay to say that you do not agree with the other parent’s actions, but do not criticise them as this may push your child further away.
- Give clear messages to your children, such as ‘children should not have to choose one parent over the other’ or ‘this is an issue between Mum and Dad’.
- Put your child in the middle of adult issues.
- Blame your children for the rejection. They are being placed in a situation where, to be embraced by one parent, they must reject the other.
- Think you don’t matter to your children – you do. Your child still needs you and cannot manage this situation without support.
- Give up. It may take years before you see change.