Narcissistic Parental Alienation: Signs, Laws & Survival Tips

The realization that your child has been manipulated into resenting you can be incredibly distressing. The effects of narcissistic parental alienation syndrome can be a tough pill for any parent to swallow.

You may find it hard to understand why your relationship with your child, which was once healthy and happy, is now strained, tense, and downright difficult.

Parents on the receiving end often report a change in their child’s behavior. A child suffering from narcissistic parental alienation may start to avoid you, be mean to you, or even be disrespectful.

Of course, your first suspicion will be that your ex-partner has something to do with the new negative behavior.

Still, before you can jump to conclusions, it’s best to understand narcissistic parental alienation and how it works.

Narcissistic parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is the process of one parent trying to turn the child or children against the other parent. The process is highly manipulative and can result in the children developing a severe dislike for the parent and even rejecting or ignoring them.

If you suspect your child is the victim of such manipulation and is experiencing narcissistic parental alienation syndrome, this one’s for you!

Read on to learn more about the signs, the laws involving PAS, and what you can do to survive it.   

Narcissistic Parental Alienation – What To Know

Suspecting that you and your child are embroiled in a situation of narcissistic parental alienation is not enough to take actionable steps.

Instead, you need to be certain of what you’re dealing with.

Below, we unpack what narcissistic parental alienation is all about and provide you with ways to cope.

Parental Alienation Syndrome Checklist

Every situation is unique, but below are some of the tell-tale signs that parental alienation syndrome is at play.

  • You notice your child using the same tone and criticisms as your ex-partner would.
  • When the ex-partner treats you badly or badmouths you, your child seems to have no empathy or interest.
  • The other parent goes on an irrational campaign to show you up as a bad parent or make others view you negatively. 
  • Your child seems withdrawn and disinterested in interacting with you. 
  • Your child has started treating you badly and speaking to you disrespectfully.
  • Your ex-partner tells your child that you don’t care anymore and don’t have time for them. 
  • Forcing the child to choose sides or choose between parents. 
  • Your ex-partner makes your child feel guilty for enjoying time spent with you.
  • Your child starts to see you as a danger or a threat. 
  • Your ex-partner asks your child to spy on you and report back.

Parental Alienation Examples

You may wonder if you’re just imagining that things aren’t quite the same anymore.

You’re probably dealing with parental alienation syndrome if you’ve experienced similar situations to these:

  • Your ex-partner rewards your child for talking badly about you. They may encourage your child to speak angrily about you and reward them by laughing, chiming in, and possibly even taking them out for ice cream. 
  • When your child is kind to you and it’s evident that they’re having a good time, your ex-partner looks hurt and sad, thus making your child feel guilty. 
  • Your ex-partner talks badly about you in front of your child. For instance, they may say, “I am not sure why we invite your mother. She never makes an effort anyway and pretends she’s doing all the work.”
  • Your child comes home from a weekend with your ex-partner and starts criticizing you using the same words your ex would use. For instance, your child might say, “You’re always late, and you look a mess today!”

Narcissistic Parent Brainwashing

It should come as no real surprise that the average narcissist likes to indulge in a little manipulative brainwashing — because they do!

Narcissistic parent brainwashing is when one parent lures the child into thinking something untrue about the other parent.

In most instances, this involves manipulating the child into believing the other parent isn’t intelligent or that they’re dangerous, silly, or don’t love them enough.

With persistent brainwashing of this kind, children can become indifferent to the target parent and entirely forget any good memories and times with them.

Parental Alienation Against Mother

This is when the father turns the child against their mother by badmouthing her, telling lies about her, mocking the relationship the child has with her, and so on.

The underlying reason is to discredit the mother and get her child to reject her.

Studies show us that more mothers are targets of parental alienation than fathers.

Parental Alienation Against Father

This is when the mother turns a child against their father. 

This works in the same way as when the mother is the target and can involve asking the child to spy on the father, laughing at efforts put in by the father, questioning the authenticity of their relationship, and so on. 

Effects of Parental Alienation on Targeted Parents

The CPTSD Foundation presents findings that tell us that targeted parents of parental alienation suffer:

  • Severe depression
  • Feelings of despair
  • Social isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Self-loathing
  • Anger
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • PTSD

Effects of Parental Alienation on Child

According to Child Rights NGO, the effects of parental alienation on children are fairly well documented. They include:

  • Self-hatred
  • Lack of trust
  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Addiction problems
  • Inability to give and receive love openly 

Parental Alienation Laws

Parental alienation is a form of child abuse, but no criminal statute forbids such behavior.

That said, parental alienation is barred in child custody and divorce temporary orders, but some parents overlook this and carry out alienation tactics regardless.

Again, no specific law is against it, but the behavior is banned during divorce and custody proceedings.

Is Parental Alienation Illegal?

In the case of a temporary order, your co-parent will not be allowed to speak to your children about you negatively.

If it can be proven that they have done so, an enforcement case will be opened in which a petition stating the type and number of violations will be presented to the court for individual rulings. 

Consequences of violating the ban on alienation behavior can range from loss of visitation time with the children to monetary fines and even jail time. 

A boy sitting on the couch ignoring his pleading mother.

Can I Call CPS for Parental Alienation?

Yes, you can call CPS for parental alienation, but this should only be done after careful consideration.

CPS provides necessary assistance in parental alienation cases, but the process can have serious consequences for the parent who is being accused.

You must provide evidence of parental alienation when accusing your ex-partner of it.

It’s a good idea to call CPS if you have evidence the behavior has been happening for some time and there is an immediate risk of harm (physical or psychological) to your child.

Remember that if CPS investigates the situation and finds the home unsuitable for your child, your child may be removed from the home.

Judge’s View on Parental Alienation

While parental alienation is not physical abuse, it can damage the child and target parent.

In most instances, judges view parental alienation as a child abuse case and will judge based on what is best for the child in any abusive situation.

How To Win a Parental Alienation Case in Court

To win a parental alienation case in court, the following points are recommended:

  • Make sure you fully understand parental alienation and can give examples of it in your current situation.
  • Document how your relationship changed with your child every step of the way. Photographs, school records, video clips — document as much as you can to back up your case.
  • Consider having an expert psychologist back up your case.
  • Your case must be presented chronologically and backed up by evidence. Your attorney must ask the right questions during the proceedings.

Coping With Narcissistic Parental Alienation

Narcissistic parental alienation can be extremely damaging to you. You may feel like you can’t cope, but the good news is that you can apply several coping mechanisms to get through it.

Confront the Alienating Parent

Narcissists believe everything they do is right. Don’t make it a mud-slinging contest.

Instead, point out that you can see what is happening and indicate the negative impact it has on your child. 

Avoid Impulsive Reactions and Actions

It’s natural to want to retaliate with similar behavior when it feels like you’re being attacked or someone is against you.

Resist this urge, and make sure that you think everything through carefully before you think or act.

Practice Self-Care

Feeling depressed and rundown are common side effects of parental alienation.

Remember that you can only be there for your child and be the best you can be if you look after yourself.

Mitigate the negative impact of parental alienation by eating healthy, exercising, getting enough rest, and spending time with people who want the best for you.

Get Professional Help

Sometimes handling narcissistic parental alienation cannot be done alone.

If you feel overwhelmed or like you’re not coping, speak to a professional counselor or therapist who can help you manage your feelings and devise a practical coping plan.

Deprogramming Parental Alienation

Of course, you only want what’s best for you and your child. If you notice parental alienation, you may want to reverse it. Here’s how you can do that:

Maintain a Positive Relationship With Your Child

Even if your child is presenting negative behavior, continue to be a good parent and put in the effort you’re used to putting in.

In some instances, alienation can be short-lived, and you need to provide your child with the security of knowing that you’re there no matter what.

Consider Taking Your Child for Counseling or Therapy With You

If the situation is unmanageable, you can seek therapy or counseling with your child to get on the same page.

This can help you get to the bottom of the problem and help your child develop a healthier relationship with you through the help of a professional.

Model Good Behavior (Teach by Example)

Children learn pretty quickly, and if you continue to behave kindly, reliably, and lovingly, the lies your ex-partner tells about you will be disproven.

Don’t be a doormat, but don’t react and get upset with every hurdle thrown your way. Instead, lead by example, showing your child how to treat others correctly.

Related Questions: 

Do Narcissistic Fathers Raise Narcissists?

In some instances, yes. Children of narcissists may learn the behavior from their parents. This doesn’t mean that it can’t be helped.

By modeling healthy behavior for your child and helping them develop confidence, good self-esteem, and independence, you can help them avoid mimicking the narcissistic behavior taught by the other parent.

Is Brainwashing a Child Illegal?

Brainwashing is a form of child abuse, and child abuse is illegal. That said, it would be complicated trying to prove that your child is being brainwashed.

You will need definitive evidence and documented incidents to present to the court.

Closing Thoughts 

Narcissistic parental alienation is no easy task to deal with. You will surely feel exhausted, drained, and emotionally spent throughout the process, not to mention how you’ll worry about the negative impact on your child.

If you feel you cannot handle the situation yourself and want to ensure that you safeguard yourself and your child from further damage, it’s a good idea to seek out professional therapy and speak with an attorney who can advise you on the legal routes available to you.