The kids will be out of school for MEA Weekend…while other families are enjoying a weekend getaway or a visit to the apple orchard or some special activity, this will be just another holiday, another weekend, another day without my children.
Missing my kids on MEA weekend got me thinking about how parental alienation manifests in the educational setting…that those who perpetrate alienation not only manipulate the child but often manipulate other people, even professionals, in their war against the targeted parent. This commonly happens as “triangulation” – when one parent (usually the abuser or alienator) uses a third party, like a teacher or school principal, to play against the other parent.
Parental alienation has various definitions but in a nutshell is when one parent works to damage a child’s relationship with the other parent (known as the “targeted parent”). As a result of alienation, child who previously had a close, loving, healthy (not abusive) relationship with the “targeted parent” then becomes estranged, hostile or rejects that parent. Many consider alienation a form of child abuse. The alienator may also elicit others—like educators—to similarly hate, reject or become hostile toward the other parent.
When alienation occurs in the school setting, the results are devastating: usually there is breakdown in communication between one parent and the educators (who have taken the side of the alienating parent, and may view the “targeted” parent in a negative light). The school may consciously or unconsciously reinforce the power and control tactics of the alienator, and sometimes the educators will even become personally involved in family court or custody litigation. There are cases where an educator has become so aligned with one parent that they will give that parent a favorable impression to the court while becoming hostile towards the “targeted parent”; finding fault, blaming and criticizing that parent, even in areas that have nothing to do with the child’s education. The child is always caught in the middle—they sense the hostility at home, and again in school. The child is given negative messages about the other parent, or senses a negative message, and as a result, their relationship with that parent erodes. The quality of the child’s education suffers, as does their ability to function in school and social settings because the trauma and stress created by alienation causes profound, even lifelong damage, to a child’s health and well being on all levels.
Parental Alienation Occurring in an Educational Setting: The school should provide a safe setting for a child to learn and grow. Unless a court order prohibits parental involvement in some way, it is not serve the best interests of a child when a teacher or educator is hostile to one parent, and unwilling to include that parent in the child’s education. It is not the job of the school or educators to become personally involved in the family dynamic but, rather, to provide quality education to children. Structure, stability and new experiences benefit children. For child who experiences family dysfunction, school can be an escape or provide a needed respite.
Educators who are aware of parental alienation (and family violence in general) are better equipped to maintain appropriate boundaries and avoid being drawn into conflict. Similarly, educators who are knowledgeable about abuse dynamics can better support children, if needed utilize programs and services for the child or if there are indications of harm or endangerment, alert authorities.
— Emily Court, 2014
Pt. 3 Get Educated About Alienation: Tips on How to Handle Alienation Dynamics in an Educational Setting