Parental alienation often has an earlier onset than you may expect. Parents often do not notice the signs until it gets to a more dire stage, partially due to distraction from the divorce itself. Thus, by the time signs are obvious enough to notice clearly, the damage is often done.
What are the early warning signs, then? What should you keep your attention on? What are the red flags that will show themselves before the more obvious tells?
Increased scrutiny toward you
Psychiatric Times focuses on parental alienation and how it manifests. In later stages, a child will often reject the alienated parent entirely. They may refuse to go to your home, have nothing nice to say about you and blame you even for things you did not do. But by the time parental alienation reaches this stage, the alienating parent has likely already spent a long time working on their plan.
In earlier stages, the signs are harder to spot. Most of them involve your child’s temperament and behavior. You might notice a few signs that they are beginning to feel unusual amounts of displeasure, disdain or scrutiny toward you. For example, they could complain about food they normally enjoy when you cook it. They might suddenly take issue with the way you present your home or clean it, despite never mentioning problems before.
Behaviorally, some children lash out and others direct their negativity inward. When lashing out, children will target peers, authority figures and even loved ones. They may especially target you, as the alienated parent. Children who direct their negativity inward may withdraw and seem gloomy or depressed. They may also self-blame and seem inflicted with guilt.
If you notice these signs, consider contacting a legal professional. They can help you decide what to do next.