If you feel like you are being targeted by the alienating parent and his/her family, you probably are. No one wants to think that their ex and his/her new spouse would do something like this, but you need to be prepared for the worst. Here are my top 5 signs to watch for:
- Diminishing visitation: A healthy co-parenting relationship involves being flexible with your visitation time. But never, and I mean never, give up your time with your children on a consistent basis – even if your children are involved in extra circular activities. I quit “forcing” my girls to come every other weekend because they were involved in softball, basketball, swimming, et al. Maintain your time with them, just adjust the schedule.
- Calling you by first name: If your children’s step-parents/step siblings/significant others start calling you by your first name, remind them you are their “dad” or “mom”. Co-parenting involves respect for the other parent’s role, and title, in their lives. The first time and every time after this happens, correct them and say “you mean, dad?”
- Constant communication: When your children are visiting you for their weekends, summer vacations, and holidays, that’s “your” time to spend with them. Don’t allow your ex to call, text, and interrupt your time with your children. A “daily” check-in is perfectly fine, but calling and texting throughout the day on non-urgent matters is disruptive and a tactic of alienating parents.
- Emotional drop-offs/pick-ups: If your children are coming to your home or you are picking them up and they are visibly emotional or upset, the head games have already begun. This happens more often before a long vacation or visitation. Targeting parents will guilt the children into thinking that they can’t possibly be happy or content at “your” home or in your care. The first time your ex and her spouse show up and park at the curb and don’t escort your children to the door, walk with them back to the car and just ask “is everything okay? Why didn’t you walk up to the house with the kids?”
- Lack of communication: Co-parenting means that you are aware of all important issues as they pertain to your children. If they miss school, have activities, struggling in school, break a bone, whatever is newsworthy needs to be communicated to you daily. Targeting parents will start giving you only the highlights and limit communication to once a week or so, and only after you have asked. Keep the communication open, text or call regularly with a simple “is everything okay?” When they start saying things like “well our kids will tell you” or “I just thought the kids would talk about that with you, I don’t need to be in the middle” – be careful!