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Dealing With Parental Alienation

Dealing With Parental Alienation

Legal Dictionary defines parental alienation (PA) as the “psychological manipulation of a child, by saying and doing things that lead the child to look unfavorably on one parent or the other.” Parental alienation involves behaviors (e.g., badmouthing, interfering with the child’s contact with the other parent, undermining the child’s relationship with the other parent, etc.) that a parent does to hurt or damage a relationship between a child and the other parent. Parental alienation syndrome (PAS), on the other hand, was coined by Dr. Richard Gardner in 1985 and describes the ultimate outcome or impact of those behaviors on a child. The controversy surrounding the legitimacy of whether PAS is an actual syndrome remains a debate among clinicians and legal professionals. Neither parental alienation nor parental alienation syndrome are mentioned in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). However, it does include a new condition called child affected by parental relationship distress (CAPRD), which involves a range of parental alienating behaviors and outcomes. According to the Psychiatric Times, children of PA are at “increased risk of future trust and relationship issues, depression, and substance abuse.” Therefore, when PA has occurred it is essential to take proper steps to help your teenager deal with its effects.

What To Do

There is no universally successful method of navigating parental alienation, as each situation is different, and each young person will have distinct needs. Fortunately, there are several suggestions that can help you help your teen deal with parental alienation, such as:

  • Communication is key: encourage your teen to speak up about their feelings, trust is built upon honest communication. Hence, it is critical to emphasize honest, truthful, and constant communication. 
  • Explore stress management options: Parental alienation can inflict a teen with considerable distress while they are attempting to process what has happened. It can be helpful to explore healthy coping mechanisms to navigate the resulting stress and pain.
  • Access to a neutral third party: It can be beneficial for teens to discuss their emotions and thoughts surrounding parental alienation with a neutral third party, within a trusted environment. 

Parental alienation can be difficult to navigate for parents and teens, and there is no shame in asking for professional guidance to learn how to best support your teenager. If you feel that you are unable to provide your teenager with ample assistance, it may be advantageous to pursue outside help. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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