In the last few blogs, we discussed the signs and symptoms and how to recognize parental alienation. Continuing on with the issues of parental alienation, Douglas Darnell, Ph.D. of Divorce Source, has identified three types alienators in parental alienation cases: (1) The Active Alienator, (2) The Obsessive Alienator, and (3) The Naïve Alienator. This week we will look at the Active Alienator.

The Active Alienator

“I don’t want you to tell your father that I earned this extra money. The miser will take it from his child support check that will keep us from going to Disneyworld. You remember he’s done this before when we wanted to go to Grandma’s for Christmas.”

Most parents returning to court over problems with visitation are active alienators. These parents mean well and believe that the children should have a healthy relationship with the other parent. The problem they have is with controlling their frustration, bitterness or hurt. When something happens to trigger their painful feelings, active alienators lash out in a way to cause or reinforce alienation against the targeted parent. After regaining control, the parent will usually feel guilty or bad about what they did and back off from their alienating tactics. Vacillating between impulsively alienating and then repairing the damage with the children is the trademark of the active alienator. They mean well, but will lose control because the intensity of their feelings overwhelms them.

The characteristics of active alienators are:

Lashing out at the other parent in front of the children. Their problem has more to do with loss of self-control when they are upset than with a sinister motivation.

After calming down, active alienators realize that they were wrong. They usually try to repair any damage or hurt to the children. During the making up, such parents can be very comforting and supportive of the child’s feelings.

Like naive alienators, they are able to differentiate between their needs and those of the children by supporting the children’s desire to have a relationship with the other parent.

Like naive alienators, active alienators allow the children to have different feelings and beliefs from their own. During the flare ups of anger, however, the delineation between the child and parent’s beliefs can become very blurry until the parent calms down and regains control. For the most part, older children have their own opinions about both parents based upon personal experience rather than what they are told by others. To keep peace, the older child usually learns to keep their opinions to themselves. Younger and more trusting children become more confused and vulnerable to their parents’ manipulations.

They have the ability to respect the court’s authority and, for the most part, comply with court orders. However, they can be very rigid and uncooperative with the other parent. This is usually a passive attempt to strike back at the other parent for some injustice.

Active alienators are usually willing to accept professional help when they or the children have a problem that does not go away.

They are sincerely concerned about their children’s adjustment to the divorce. Harboring old feelings continues to be a struggle, but active alienators continue to hope for a speedy recovery from their pain.