Whatever the reason, the offending parent effectively turns the child or children against the other parent. He or she may withhold or limit visitation or reduce or eliminate contact between parent and child. He or she might make disparaging remarks about the other parent to or in the presence of the children, or even make false allegations of abuse. Whether it is directly stated or not, the offending parent might make the child feel that he must choose one or the other.
When subjected to this behavior, children often side with the alienating parent. They do this to gain approval from that parent, or because they believe the terrible picture that has been painted of the other parent. Yet they often assert that the decision to reject the other parent is their own, because they don’t want the offending parent to feel or appear guilty.
Parental alienation syndrome can be mild or severe, but in any event, it can have devastating effects on the child involved. He becomes trapped in the middle of a conflict between two of the most important people in his life. The relationship with both parents usually becomes strained, and he may lose contact with one of them. Unless abuse of some sort is a factor, it is generally in the child’s best interest to encourage a good relationship with both mother and father.