Spotting the Signs of Parental Gaslighting by Gloria James

Signs Parental Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a manipulative form of emotional abuse. Co-parenting with a gaslighting ex-spouse or commencing a custody action against such a gaslighting spouse is not a walk in the park but akin to entering a battlefield.

The agenda taken by the gaslighting parent is to push the narrative that the children’s welfare and best interests are being served when not living with you.

If you try to talk to the gaslighting parent, be prepared for a defensive or denial reply. On hearing such statements, you will feel compelled to prove otherwise.

Signs of a gaslighting parent:

  • Parent playing the victim;
  • Wanting to be a ‘friend’ to the child rather than a parent;
  • Denying the child’s version;
  • Making the child feel bad; and
  • Controlling the child’s personal development.

Signs when a gaslighting parent’s behaviour has caused a profound impact on a child:

  • Low self-esteem;
  • Difficulty trusting a person;
  • Feeling anxious or depressed;
  • Being detached; and
  • Feeling like walking on eggshells.

In a custody dispute, such a gaslighting parent uses manipulation, i.e., parental alienation, to deny access to the other parent; or paint a different picture of the other parent, i.e., making a sane parent be viewed as crazy.

How you can deal with a gaslighting parent:

  • Work with a counsellor;
  • Start educating yourself by reading up;
  • Consult a lawyer to understand what steps you can take to protect yourself
  • Keep records;
  • Set boundaries; and
  • Keep a network of close relatives and friends you can trust and rely on.

The term gaslighting was published in a UK High Court decision on 14 February 2022.

The term was also described in a Singapore Family Justice Courts decision, describing the father’s unreasonable behaviour including traits of gaslighting, in the case of WFS v WFT [2022] SGFC 66

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