Negative Parental Influencers

In 2021, the term “influencers” is often associated with social media marketing and trending TikTok dances in the street. The reality is that influencers are everywhere and, for your children, that begins with you. Children are significantly influenced by their surroundings, which includes what they see and hear within the walls of their home. What parents do, how they act, and what they say can be pivotal for their children’s development and their children’s relationships with others. A parent’s behaviors may be even more influential during and after a divorce. 

A parent may either purposefully or unwittingly behave in such a manner that they undermine the child’s relationship with the other parent by influencing their child to discredit the other parent. Some common examples include:

  • Airing dirty laundry. Giving a child explicit details about the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage, which usually includes blaming the other parent’s failures, is a common way to cause distrust and disrespect towards the other parent.
  • Making them choose. Making a child choose between you and your ex is a clear sign of negative parental influence. This could include guilting your child by acting “hurt” or “sad” to win favor with your child.
  • Non-compliance with Court-ordered parenting time. Letting your child choose whether to visit the other parent can be a sign of negative parental influence. Parents have a responsibility to ensure that requirements are met and to encourage a parenting time pursuant to those orders as long as there are not serious concerns about the health and safety of your child, which should be brought to the Court’s attention promptly. 
  • Making your child a “spy.” It’s one thing to broadly ask your child how their weekend went. It is entirely different to ask them specific details about your ex’s home and relationships or, worse, asking them to gather certain information when they are at your ex’s home.
  • Blocking access. Blocking access could mean turning off messaging applications on your child’s phone so you can’t reach them, refusing to answer your co-parent’s routine bedtime calls, changing your phone number, or even unilaterally moving a significant distance so that the parenting time plan is no longer feasible.
  • Undermining your authority. Parents often have disagreements about parenting. Talk to each other about them as much as possible. Do not tell your child it is okay to do something as long as it is a “secret” from the other parent.
  • Refusing to provide information. Refusing to provide extra-curricular schedules so you can attend your child’s public sports events or refusing to provide access to medical and school records may also be a sign of  negative parental influence.

If you believe that your child is being influenced by your co-parent, or anyone else, it is important to act quickly to avoid further deterioration of the parent-child relationship. If you have concerns that your child is being manipulated, contact the family law team at Cohn Lifland to determine the next steps in protecting your child’s best interests.