China Elevator Stories

many children in China suffer parental alienation by a grandparent

Unlike the EU, China does not recognize that parental alienation is a form of domestic abuse.


Ruth Silbermayr
Ruth Silbermayr


Parental alienation is the psychological manipulation of a child by one parent against the other parent. In the case of grandparents alienating a child from their parent, I’ll refer to it as parental alienation by a grandparent here.

When my two sons, both still very young at that time, started to play “Let’s throw Mummy into the garbage bin” on a regular basis while we were still living in Siping, I couldn’t help but wonder who had taught them to play this game. I assumed it must have been my boys’ grandmother who had started to manipulate my children against me when I wasn’t watching.

8 things my older son and me taking a train - Ruth Silbermayr-Song AMWF

When our older son turned one, my ex started to put me down on a regular basis, telling me frequently, among other things, that I was a worthless mother. My husband would alienate our son and then later, after our second son was born, both sons from me, and would hand them over to his parents often.

His behavior marked the beginning of the end of our marriage.

Compared to my husband’s behavior whose efforts to alienate our children from me could be very obvious, his parents tried very hard to hide that they were alienating my children from me and it was a little harder for me to spot the signs initially.

Some of the signs were so subtle that they could be hard to spot even for a person who is somewhat familiar with parental alienation.

In the summer of 2019, I stayed in a small town in Germany to prepare my husband’s residence permit for Austria. My husband and his family stayed in China with my children. I hadn’t wanted to separate from my children, but my husband didn’t allow me to take my children to Germany with me.

Over the summer, my ex’s mother – who looked after my children during the day – almost always found an excuse why I couldn’t have a video call with my kids. She’d tell me my children were currently eating, playing, preparing to go outside, watching cartoons or that one of them was sleeping and when I’d schedule a call for later, she’d simply have forgotten about it by that time.

my children - Ruth Silbermayr
A picture of my sons sent to me via WeChat by my children's grandmother on 6 August 2019

In 2019, the European Court of Human Rights has confirmed that parental alienation constitutes emotional abuse of children.

From my own observation, I would call parental alienation by a grandparent an issue of pandemic proportions in China, but unlike the EU, China does not recognize that parental alienation is a form of domestic abuse.

Have you experienced parental alienation?

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