What To Do About Brainwashing in Child Custody Cases, when family court counselors, attorneys, and judges ideally want all children in a divorce or family breakup to have good relationships with both parents, no matter how difficult one or both of the parents are. Unfortunately, few counselors or court professionals really know how to stop the damaging parent from hurting the children. Parents with high conflict personality disorders, such as borderline, antisocial, narcissistic, histrionic or addictions have no insight about their behavior, they are unable to empathize with the children, cannot step into their children’s shoes to see what they see, or feel what they feel. High conflict parents are unable to take responsibility for the things they have done in the relationship to bring it to an end.
What To Do About Brainwashing in Child Custody Cases, when high conflict parents do not have the insight to really know what they are doing to the children really harms them. They do not realize that their behavior will eventually drive the children away from the parent as the children age and develop their own critical thinking skills. High conflict parents cannot stop hurting the children because of their own emotional wounds that are so deep they cannot see past these wounds to understand how the children are wounded by their actions and words against the other parent or about them.
Brainwashing in Child Custody Cases, often means that a high conflict parent bashes and brainwashes the children against the other parent, hoping that their children will reject the other parent and stop loving or being with them. High conflict parents believe that this kind of revenge is necessary and justified. Most often in these cases, the other parent has been trying to follow the court order by keeping silent about the negative things the other parent is saying to the children. The non-conflict parent may even ask for help from professionals, but often professionals do not know how to handle high conflict parents and they are unable to give this parent the scripts to say to their children to insulate them from the damage from the conflictual parent. When you as a non-conflict parent remain silent to your children about the bashing and brainwashing done by the other parent, your children will end up being confused and scarred.
Brainwashing in Child Custody Cases can be powerful enough, that the brainwashing parent may be successful turning the child completely and permanently against the loving non high conflict parent. Because many counselors are not trained on ways to assist parents or children, about emotional brainwashing, by a high conflict parent, the high conflict parent is often allowed to continue saying what they are telling the children that is causing the children confusion and pain. The children are being told that their other parent is evil, cruel, and defective or does not love them the way the high conflict parent loves them.
One mother told me that the children who were four and five years old would come home every time they had been with their father, and cry, Daddy says you are stealing the furniture. Daddy says you won’t let him sell the house. Daddy says you are going to go to jail.” She asked the child’s psychologist for help, on what to do, and what to tell the children about this situation. The psychologist looked at the mother, shook his head, and asked, “What do you want me to do about it?”This answer made the mother immediately feel completely hopeless about her children=s situation. She said that she wanted to take the children and run away. She knew her children were in danger but even the trained court professional could not give her any strategies to stop the bashing. This is one of the reasons parents feel like victims. The many professionals involved with the high conflict court cases often cannot give parents good answers or teach them the tools to protect their children.
When there is Brainwashing in Child Custody Case, It is very important to give parents involved with a high conflict personality hope, that they alone can save their children from the high conflict parent’s negative programing of the children. A high conflict parent is often a master at bashing and bad-mouthing you as the other child’s parent. They will be very successful at brainwashing your children too, if you do not step up and protect the children with specific words to combat their attempts. It will be too late to protect them from the negative programing that the other parent is attempting to use on the children You cannot remain silent, and you cannot fight back through the court system, like you might expect to do. Instead, you have to become skilled at scripts and nurturing activities to protect your children from permanent emotional harm. You will need to learn how to talk to your children so they are removed from feeling responsible about the breakup or the custody arrangement.
For your children, your silence as as the “bashed parent” means that the other parent might be right about what they are telling them. The children are caught in the terrible position of having to take sides by pleasing the difficult and narcissistically wounded parent who is bashing you. You need to learn how to talk to your children to protect them, without destroying your child’s love for the other parent.
Use any of the following questions and discussion to determine whether to talk to your children and then apply one or a combination of scripts suggested below to help you insulate your children from the negative impact of a bashing parent. You should not over talk to your children and you must be very careful that you do not berate the other parent so that you child is not caught in the middle of their love for both of you. Whenever possible seek the assistance of a professional before you attempt to discuss any of these issues with your child especially if they are beginning adolescence or teens.
Questions to ask yourself regarding bashing, brainwashing, and badmouthing by the other parent:
1. Do you believe that the other parent has a high conflict personality? If the answer is yes, then you need to tell your children something similar to the following, “Your mom/dad is really angry and hurt about us breaking up and they want me to hurt too. They think the best way to do this is to tell you bad things about me, so you will stop loving me. Your mom/dad wants you to get upset with me and believe these bad things. The bad things they say are not true. They think that if you stop loving me they will feel better, because I will be hurting like they are too. Then you will stop loving me because you are angry with me too. I want you to know that you can love both of us at the same time. You don’t have to believe the bad things your mother/father says about me. If you hear things you don’t understands or don’t like hearing, ask me about them. We will talk about them right away so you can find out what it true and what is not true. This will help you feel better. If we need to, we can call your counselor and talk to them too, okay? I will tell you the truth and you will feel better about knowing what really happened. Remember, I will always love you. Since they are hurting a lot, they don’t know how much they are hurting you when they say mean things about me.”
2. Do you believe the other parent is bashing you or is going to try to brainwash the children against you? If the answer is Yes, then you need to have regular discussions with your children to help them think clearly about what they are hearing from the other parent. Brainwashing and bad mouthing can be compared to a commercial on TV. The commercial is designed to get you to believe everything they tell you about their product so you will buy it.
This is only an example for you to use with your children, if you can use real life example that you have previously discussed, that would be better:
“Remember when we watched that cereal commercial about Cereal XYZ? The people who made that cereal want you to believe that Cereal XYZ makes you smarter, stronger and a happier child. Remember how they showed the boy hopping and skipping and singing as he came in the classroom? They tell you on the commercial that Cereal XYZ fills your tummy. They suggest that if you eat their cereal you also will be hopping, skipping, and singing just like the little boy did. But they don’t tell you everything about the cereal. They leave out important information that they don’t want you to know, because they want you to buy and eat their cereal. They don’t tell you that there is a lot of sugar in their cereal and it really makes you hyperactive. They want you to believe that their cereal is really good for you. But sugar in the cereal can make you fat and it can make you feel wiped out if you eat too much. They don’t tell you that, because, if you knew that their cereal was full of sugar you would not buy it, would you? If you didn’t buy their cereal, they would go out of business, right?”
“In the same way, your mother/father wants you to hear only the bad parts about me so you will believe them and buy their same ideas they have about me. Then you will think that I am also a bad person. If you think I am bad, you won’t want to be around me, anymore right? They want you to only believe what they say is right. They don’t want you to think for yourself.”
“Because you love your dad/mom you will want to believe what they say is right. Then you will get confused and feel sad and angry about what you hear. You won’t know what to believe anymore or whether it is true or not.”
“To help you get rid of the confusion, you will have to decide inside your head who is right and who is wrong. It is easier to believe your mom/dad, when you are confused. If you are feeling bad, they can put pressure on you to accept that they are telling you the truth. So you start to believe them. Once you believe your father/mother might be right, you have to decide that I am wrong. You will stop listening to me, so you don’t feel more confused. You won’t want to be around me because it keeps confusing you. You then may start believing more and more what your mom/dad says to you, so you are angry with me. You can’t show me your love or you will be upsetting your mom/dad.”
?The more you don’t want to be with me, the happier that seems to make your mom/dad. I know it sounds really scary that you are caught in the middle of this terrible decision so I am telling you right now that this is what you are going to experience. That is also why I am helping you to learn right now to decide for yourself. When your mom/dad tells you something that does not feel good, ask me questions, okay? I love you very much and I want to help you not get hurt like that. I know you dad/mom loves you too, but they are hurting so much right now that they are not able to stop hurting you. They want you to hurt me too by not loving me. Everyone gets hurt when that happens. It is your mom/dad’s responsibility to get over their anger, not yours. So when your mom/dad starts telling you something bad about me, or about grandma or about my friends or about what we do here in my home, you can think for yourself. You can ask me about what they are saying before you believe it. That way you don’t get confused. Remember, you can love both of us.”
3. Does the other parent make you feel small, insecure, defective, or weak when they talk to you or argue with you? Do they accuse you of being flaky, crazy or evil…? If the answer is Yes, you need to understand that there is a high probability that the Ex will try to do the same thing to the children in order to get back at them. It is critical that you learn how to give your children powerful messages to protect them from the bashing and brainwashing, which is more than likely going to occur.
Professionals should assist you by putting certain restrictions in place to protect the children, such as a court-ordered counselor for the children and a court order that both parents participate with a counselor. The child’s counselor and counselors should report back to the courts about their concerns.
4. What specific concerns do you have about the other parent? Does this information require that you talk to your children about the concerns? Can you clearly identify what are the concerns you have about the other parent? Are they overly attached, unable to offer empathy, angry all of the time, emotionally unstable, changing moods like the winds change? You have to be able to clearly define exactly what your concern is with the other parent so you can identify what to say to the children and what actions to take to insulate them from the other parent’s efforts to bash you or brainwash them. You may require the help of a professional to define clearly what the concerns are. Does the other parent have a high conflict personality? Do you have a legitimate concern about the other parent’s ability or willingness to hurt the children? The answers to these questions will help you work with a professional to protect or insulate the children from the other parent’s efforts to brainwash them against you. You will need specific rules in the court order to keep your children monitored and protected because of the high conflict parent=s attempts to bash or brainwash.
One mother who initially told me that she was the only one who could console her child in the middle of the night when her daughter woke up crying described giving her two bottles of milk and comforting her for an hour until she fell asleep. The child was two-years,five months old at the time we met. That was not enough a big enough reason to stop the father from having overnights with his daughter. However, as I listened to her stories about the child’s father, it became apparent that the father was actually a very dangerous parent. He had already placed his daughter in danger on at least ten different occasions during her short life. When she was six months, he lifted a pressure cooker lid, and the steam burned the child’s hand so severely, it took three months to heal her hand. Another time, he put her on a bicycle built for a five-year-old and left her to ride alone. She fell off and hit the inside of the pick-up truck, where she was riding around on the bicycle. She needed six stitches in her forehead. He taught her to get a chair and climb up on the chair to turn on the gas burners on the stove, all by the time she was two and a half.
This father tried to get the court professionals to believe that the mother was overly protective. The mother had reason to be terrified for her daughter’s safety while in the father’s care. There had been domestic violence against the mother throughout the marriage, and after the breakup, the father told the mother that he was going to get to fifty percent custody, because that was the way things worked California. She was terrified about this happening. Once she got her story out, she created a time line for her attorney outlining all of the past events that had occurred for her child. This was a high conflict case because the father managed to point out to the professionals that the mother was overly protective and unstable. This created a diversion and confusion for the mother, which gave the father adequate time to argue that he should have equal child sharing time. Eventually, the mother did get sole custody, based upon the father’s dangerous behavior and the child being able to tell the story of what the father was doing once she was six.
5. If you don’t talk to the children about the other parent’s problems, will the children be at risk for being brainwashed against you? Is the problem you are worried about serious? If A “yes” then you must tell your children the scripts, as suggested in the previous examples. Ask this question, If nothing is done, will the other parent damage the children’s relationship with you? Will your children be in danger of emotional abuse while with the brainwashing parent? If the answer is Yes, you need to get help from an experienced professional to guide your through these decision making issues. Often, what you consider dangerous to a professional in the court system is ignored by them rather than honored. You will need to communicate with the court professionals to see if they react the same way you expect them to react about your concerns about your child. Often we get frustrated about the court’s unwillingness to remove or reduce the child’s time with one of the parents because they are not sure the issues you are worried about are going on. You as a parent must become focused on learn the skills yourself and implementing the strategies in your own, while surrounding yourself with other family and friends who role model appropriate and exceptional adult skills. You may want to stop going to court to prove the other parent is bad and just get to work and focus on what you can do to mange the Brainwashing in your child custody case.
If the other parent is telling your children true information about you, but it is not appropriate for them to know about, such as an affair, pregnancy by another man, or they being arrested for something, you need help from professionals with, talk to your children without confusing them even more. You need to be able to share the truth with the children while insulating them from the other parent’s anger and hurt. Seek help from a professional on how to communicate these truths appropriately.
If the other parent only accuses you of these things, and there is no truth to the accusations, you need to discuss the issues with your children, as suggested in the examples above. You will need to talk openly to the children about the other parent’s fears and your fear that the children will stop loving you. You need to tell your children, Your mother/father is trying to get you to hate me because they believe you will love them more than me. By telling you bad things about me that are true/not true, they think you will stop loving me. They will be happy about you feeling angry like they do. That is not right. It is hard on you when they want you to take sides. They don’t understand how bad it makes you feel when they say bad things to you. When your father/mother says mean things to you about me, you can say, I love you very much and I always will dad/mom. Okay?
6. How can this information be told to your children without criticizing the other parent and doing the same thing to the children the other parent is doing to you? You need help from professionals who can define the proper scripts to say to your children without letting your anger or fear show. Professionals need to assist you with how to give loving messages to your children when you have to tell your children negative information about their other parent. The goal is to help you educate your children so they still love the other parent, but are not be damaged by them. Unfortunately, for most high conflict personality parents, it is almost impossible to convince them that they should encourage your children to love you, it is too big of a threat
Other questions to think about include:
- Will telling the children this information actually take the pressure off them?
- Will it help the children feel safer and less confused? How will this information keep the children from being brainwashed?
- Do the benefits of sharing this information with the children; outweigh the emotional risks of knowing the information?
- Could this information backfire on the children or on you?
- How can the parent tell the children this information so that it supports their self-esteem?
- What is the best way to share this information with the children, through professionals or through you?
Seek out a competent professional to help you develop appropriate scripts for your children. When a parent is told to wait for things to settle down by professionals, the children are immediately vulnerable to the other parent=s efforts to emotionally damage them. The silence from the parent actually reinforces the brainwashing parent to continue brainwashing.
You need to learn how to “String Pearls” with your children by creating positive anticipation with them. When you string activities and events with your children together, you create positive anticipation with your children by getting inside their imagination. To learn more about how to insulate your children by Stringing Pearls with your children, go to www.ParentsInConflict.com/lessons and read the series of articles that will teach you how to string pearls with your children. Read the blog for additional articles on coparenting strategies with a high conflict coparent at the Parents In Conflict Blog
Deena Stacer, PhD, has been teaching parents how to end the conflict and save the children, using proven strategies, scripts and skills that protect the child from being damaged by a high conflict custody flight, since 1997 for the San Diego Courts. She has traveled as far away as Hong Kong to teach court professionals here strategies to end conflict and protect the children.
She offers online co-parenting classes at http://www.parentsinconflict.com/lessons. These courses cover parallel parenting approaches, scripts, skills, strategies to disengage from the fight and use the energy to get into the child’s world and give them the skills they need to grow up happy, well adjusted and fulfilled. Parents receive a certificate of completion after attending the online course.
Deena Stacer can be reached toll free at 800-980-0434 or by email at Doc@DeenaStacer.com
©Deena L. Stacer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved. You may not reproduce this article without express permission