The terms “parental gatekeeping” and “parental alienation” are often used interchangeably. However, parental alienation — where one parent tries to turn a child against the other parent — is an extreme form of parental gatekeeping.
Parental gatekeeping involves a parent restricting a child’s contact with their other parent and/or trying to minimize the other parent’s involvement in the child’s life and development. The gatekeeper may or may not harbor resentment and anger toward their co-parent. They may simply believe that they know how to care for their child and their co-parent doesn’t.
When a parent develops gatekeeping behaviors, they’re often violating the custody agreement and parenting plan. Maybe a child is supposed to spend every weekend with their father, but their mother always finds reasons why the child can’t make it. That can be a symptom of restrictive gatekeeping.
Maybe the custody agreement stipulates that both parents need to be involved in decisions about medical care, but a father regularly makes these decisions without consulting the mother. That could be another example.
These attitudes and behaviors can be detrimental to a child. They may believe that one parent doesn’t want to see them or that a parent’s decisions aren’t to be trusted.
If your co-parent is preventing you from participating in your child’s life in the way that you agreed and that is stipulated in your agreements, talk to them. If you’re fortunate, you can both agree to abide by the agreements to do what’s in the best interest of your child.
If your co-parent continues to restrict your access and/or decision-making role, talk to your attorney. They can help you protect your rights.