If you suspect your ex might be gaslighting your children, you will need to be smart and act quickly.

What is gaslighting?

The term gaslighting comes from the 1930s play Gaslight, where a husband manipulates his wife into believing she is going crazy by dimming the gas-powered lights in the house every evening and then denying it.  As a result, the wife believed she was going crazy.

You can read our “Easy guide to Gaslighting: How to recognise it and when it’s time to get help” here if you feel you may be a victim of gaslighting.

How to spot gaslighting behaviour towards your children

Gaslighting is a typical power play by a narcissistic parent who will stop at nothing to keep control, even if that means emotionally damaging their children in the process. Your ex may well have exhibited behaviour like this towards your children during your relationship; however, you may not have recognised it at the time.  Sadly, on separation, the behaviour often escalates and can be used against you.

We have detailed below some examples of the types of gaslighting behaviour you may have witnessed:

  • Your ex made fun of your children’s emotions
  • Your ex was always right, everyone else, including the children were wrong, always
  • Your ex told your children how and what to think
  • Your ex always blamed your children

How does your ex use gaslighting during separation?

Aside from the emotional damage your ex may be inflicting on your children, they could be damaging your children’s relationship with you.  Your ex may question your mental health or tell your children that they are scared of you or that they don’t want to spend time with you.  You need to be alert to any changes in your children’s behaviour in general and particularly towards you.

What can you do?

Gaslighters can damage your relationship with your children seemingly irreparably and, in the worst cases, stop you seeing them at all, other than under supervision.

The problem is that by the time you have realised what is happening, you may feel that it is too late to do anything about it.  If the gaslighter has done their work well, your children may well not want to spend time with you and believe everything the other parent is telling them.

We are used to spotting this kind of manipulative behaviour from parents who want to gain an unfair advantage and monopolise their children’s time. Our experience of gaslighting and the tactics of parental alienation means we know how they operate and can help.

It can be very hard for family courts to recognise gaslighting. The abuser can appear very charming and the abused parent will typically overreact and seem emotional due to the stress they have been put under, backing up their accusations.

No matter how distressed you feel, it is important not to react to the gaslighter’s behaviour. We can help by taking over the negotiations so that you don’t have to deal directly with your ex and risk being manipulated further.  We can also reassure you and help you separate truth from fiction.

You may by this stage already feel alienated from your children but your relationship with them will heal over time and we can put you in touch with specialist counsellors who can help. Most importantly of all, we can begin to undo the damage, restore your reputation and negotiate arrangements for your children which will ensure you can continue to see them, care for them and play an active role in parenting them as they grow up.

To speak to one of our friendly solicitors for a free confidential chat give us a call today on 01423 594680.

Laura Mounsey is a family lawyer with experience of working on cases involving properties, trusts, businesses and pensions.  Laura is a dedicated and talented lawyer who has been recognised with a “Safe Pair of Hands” Award.

Everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon.  If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing enquiries@harrogatefamilylaw.co.uk.