Am I guilty of parental alienation?
I honestly do not know. This is something that I have been afraid of being blamed for ever since the divorce occurred. In fact, it is something that sometimes keeps me awake at night. My thoughts wonder how much I contributed to the negative feelings my children have toward their father.
Three out of my four children live with me. (The fourth lives on his own.) The three that live with me have observed the overwhelming nature of my divorce. It was impossible to protect them from it.
For the first little bit during and after the divorce, I regularly told my children that their father loved them to the best of his ability. Honestly, he wasn’t the nicest guy to live with, and during the divorce he became vindictive directly to them. But he is their father…
All three of them accused me of trying to force them into a relationship with him. All three of them said that I was trying to manipulate them.
So I stopped.
But am I guilty of this thing called parental alienation? Did I promote their feelings of anger directed toward their dad? Was there anything that I could have done to encourage them more?
There’s this: I only found out about my ex-husband’s attraction to men because my daughter told me. In the beginning, I attempted counseling, and I encouraged my children to see that I was trying to be open-minded.
And there’s this: My 2nd son and my daughter told me that if I stayed with their dad, I would not have a relationship with them. That they would make an effort to see me occasionally, but they would never again enter our home freely.
And then there’s this: My 4th child, from a very early age, disliked his father. I never understood it and often attempted to force a relationship. The only way he would spend time with his dad is if he was bribed.
Not to mention this: My ex-husband moved over 1000 miles away.
I was devastated by my ex-husband’s hidden life, and as my eyes opened to why our lives were the way they were, I realized what awful things he had intentionally done to keep his secret. (Some of them are still beyond my comprehension.) Did I share too much of that? Maybe. I don’t know how I could have kept it a secret. Their friends were telling them things, and they came to me with questions. I didn’t want to lie to my kids.
Regardless of all of that, am I guilty of alienating their dad? Did I overly encourage my children to dislike him?
My studies in social work tell me that this is a problem with some divorce cases, and I do not want this to be the story of my children. I want them to know that even if I cannot look their father in the eye or have a face-to-face conversation with him, they are more than welcome to have that. They won’t be hurting me. (FYI-that is a total lie…it will hurt me if they seek out a relationship with him. But I can keep that tucked inside of me to share with a friend instead of my feelings affecting them…(laugh out loud) is that even possible? They do live with me, and they are no longer young children. They can see through any attempt I make to “fake it.”)
How does a person navigate this? How do I prevent this from happening? I know that the emotional turmoil of walking out this devastating path has affected my children, but have I alienated them from their father?
What could I have done differently? What can I do differently?
Today, I continue to ponder if I am guilty. Part of me thinks no way, I would never do that. Another part of me thinks that it is impossible for me to have not negatively influenced them.
I will have to settle with this thought: I have done the best that I could in my situation.
I just pray that sinks into my soul one day soon.