Parental alienation exists in the world of step-parents too and is commonly known as step-parent alienation.
These step-parents can get a double dose of it from either biological parent.
Parental Alienation is when a parent makes disparaging remarks about the other one. The attacking parent wants the child to form an allegiance with them and not have a relationship with the absent one. The child is caught in the middle of a parental tug of war.
How does this apply to a step-parent?
During a marriage the biological mum may make snide remarks such as, “Thelma is overstepping her bounds” or “Thelma acts and dresses like a teenager.”
Comments may be made about the lack of nutritional meals and so forth. The children may be put into a bind where it is said or implied, that if they like Thelma, they are being disloyal to their mum.
A biological parent may be in a perceived power struggle with the step-parent. This competition can even be on a subconscious level.
One father resented the close relationship between his daughter and his new wife.
This Narcissist did not want to share the limelight with his wife, so he would make subtle putdowns regarding her competence. The father was attempting to alienate his daughter from the step-mother. Eventually they divorced and his daughter maintained a relationship with her step-mother. Post-divorce, the biological mum asked the step-mum, “What took you so long to get a divorce?”
How to lessen the likelihood of step-parent alienation?
Some step-parents said they were proactive before marriage telling the kids that they were a family friend, and not a future parent.
Be upfront with step-kids that you respect their parents and are not a replacement. Cut the kids some slack, but do not tolerate disrespectful or rude behavior. Talk with your spouse to see if the other parent is trashing you to their kids.
Step-mums have asked the biological parent out for coffee and clarified the friend role. Asking about the child’s routine and advice reassures the parent that their parental position is not threatened. A step-dad might have discussion with the father over a pint at the pub.
The important thing is that the children are not being forced to take sides.
Family mediation may be in order. When I was on a radio show, I had quite a few callers who asked about pre-marital counselling for second marriages when there were children. I think that is a great idea.
My step-mother’s family was so welcoming and treated me as if I were a blood relative. My maternal grandparents had died before I was born, so I was thrilled to gain another set. I had instant cousins who were close to my age.
My father was a jerk, so my step-mum ended up divorcing him. He was livid and said cruel things about her and the family post-divorce.
When I refused to listen to these remarks, he gave the ultimatum, “It’s either her or me.” It was an easy choice to make. My father stuck to his word, so we parted ways.
My father did step-parent alienation to the max to try and sever my relationship with my step-mother and her family after their divorce.
In most cases, step-parenting works after some trial and error.
Two step-dads each told me a nice wedding story. In one, the step-dad walked the bride halfway up the aisle. Then her biological father took over and gave the young lady away to the groom. The second step-dad and the father together escorted the bride up the aisle to the alter for a memorable wedding.
Are you a step parent? How are is it working for you?
Author of The Woman’s Holistic Guide to Divorce
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