Signs Your Ex Is Turning Your Child against You - 25 Signs and Ways to Deal with It.
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Over the past couple of decades, the number of children whose parents either divorced or were never married and are no longer together has steadily increased as shown by this graph based on research from the Pew Research Center.
This has created the ideal opportunity for parental alienation which is the tendency of one of the now separated parents of turning their child against the other parent for any one of multiple reasons such as conflict and hostility between the two parents or as a result of a stepparent wanting a closer relationship with their stepchild by removing the biological parent from the equation.
Whatever the reason, turning kids against parents is not a very challenging thing to do because children are impressionable and would want to believe their parents. This is why you need to spot the signs that your ex is turning your child against you as soon as you can to mitigate the harmful effects this might have on both you and your child.
In this article, we shall explore some of those signs from both your child and your ex as well as what you should do when you are in a parental alienation situation.
8 Signs from your child
Table of Contents
1. Refuses to visit or reduces the frequency at which they do
One of the most obvious signs that a parent is turning a child against the other parent is that the child either stops visiting or reduces the number of times they visit the parent being alienated.
This is even more obvious when the child had previously been frequent in their visitation and willingness to be with the parent they are being turned from.
The level of avoidance depends on what the ex tells the child but if the ex demonized the other parent by for instance calling them an abuser, the child would want to stay as far away as possible to avoid that apparent toxic behavior.
2. Displays less affection
As already mentioned, children are highly impressionable which allows for strategies aimed at brainwashing a child against a parent to be quite effective on them.
An obvious sign that this is happening is that they begin to drift apart from you emotionally because they are being manipulated into viewing you as someone that they should not be around.
Observe your child to see if they are confiding in you less, giving you less physical contact such as hugs or even telling you that they love you less as these are signs that there is less affection.
3. Your child’s attitude towards you changes for the worst
Another obvious sign that a mother is turning her children against their father is when the child or child has an attitude towards their father. Most of the time, their attitude will resemble their mother’s attitude towards their dad. The thing about this is that the mother may not be trying to consciously turn your child against you, especially if/when your child is young and impressionable.
However, the way that she acts around you or when she talks about you to her friends and family when the child is around is enough to influence the child and paint you out to be the bad guy.
Research has shown that more mothers tend to alienate the father from his children after a divorce especially if the mother is the primary parent.
If this begins to take effect in your children, they will begin to find faults in you that they didn’t notice before because their minds would begin to look for things that confirm that your ex was correct in labeling you as an unreliable person.
They will usually voice these concerns out loud so take care to notice if they begin criticizing you more than they normally do if they ever did before.
4. Shows hostility towards your family or they know through you
Whether it is a father turning his child against their mother or a mother turning her children against father, there is bound to be hostility towards the parent being alienated.
This hostility would most likely extend to people that the parent knows or is related to because the child’s mind might label them guilty by association.
Your child might then begin to act out against your family or friends by avoiding them or speaking rudely to them when this wasn’t the case before. This is a serious sign to take note of because it could mean that your ex has vilified you so much that your child believes that even those around you must be as bad as you are.
5. Takes your ex’s side in conflicts and sounds like them
In turning your child against you, your ex will essentially be projecting whatever negative feelings they have against you to the children. As the children internalize this, they will begin to sound more and more like your ex which means that even in arguments, they will take their side over yours or the right side.
For instance, if a divorced husband is turning the children against their mother, the children will most probably voice concerns that the father had about the mother because that is what the husband has projected onto them.
6. Denies any good memories you have with them
If your child is continually being told that you are a bad person and no action is taken to stop this, there is a chance that they will begin to believe this to be true.
Should this happen, their minds will work hard to replace whatever good memories you had with them with the more negative ones to convince them that you are indeed a bad person.
They will therefore deny any good memories you have with them and in extreme cases, even forget those memories entirely.
7. They act differently in the presence of your ex
Another one of the signs that your ex is turning your child against you as a parent is when you notice that your child is nice and sweet when they are alone with you but their attitude and overall demeanor towards you changes once the other parent is around.
For instance, your child still maintains a cordial relationship with you because they might not be entirely convinced that you are bad but this completely changes for the worse when they are around both you and your ex.
This could mean that they are fine with you but as a result of a guilty conscience brought upon by your ex vilifying you, they feel it only right to be hostile to you in your ex’s presence to prove to your ex that they are on their side.
8. Your child denies being influenced by your ex
Another way to know if your ex-husband is manipulating your children into disliking you is when you ask your child straightforwardly if this is their father’s doing and they deny it.
This may be because of one of these two reasons; they are either too young to understand what manipulation is and how it works or how subtle it can be, or they don’t want to get their father in trouble and therefore they think they are protecting him by denying that he ever tells them mean and horrible things about you.
11 Signs from your Ex
9. Argues that child can decide when to see you
If your child decides to reduce the frequency with which they visit you, you would most probably notice and complain about it.
Check to see how your ex reacts to this complaint. If they take your child’s side by arguing that the child should be allowed to visit at whichever frequency they would like, there is a good chance that they are behind your child’s decision to reduce their visitation frequency.
10. There is animosity between you and your ex’s family.
When there is animosity between you and your ex’s family, it is very easy for them to start or continue brainwashing your child against you.
As a parent this is true especially if they are the primary parent after the separation or divorce. This is because the more time your child spends with their family, the more negative things they hear about you and therefore draw conclusions based on the foul things that are said about you.
11. Tries to erase anything that would remind your child of you
A textbook move in turning kids against parents would be to manipulate the kids into forgetting the memories they have with the other parent by removing anything that may remind the kid of that parent.
The parent doing the alienation could remove pictures of the child and the other parent from around the house or even get rid of gifts that the other parent bought. This is most effective on children who are young and whose memories can still be easily shaped.
For instance, if a mother is turning her young son against his father, she could remove pictures of them going to the circus or engaging in some outdoor activity together.
The goal is simple: “out of sight, out of mind.”
12. Does not tell you about school or extracurricular activities
When parents are separated, school activities offer the opportunity for both parents to be in the child’s life at the same moment and so is usually intensely valued by the child.
Because of this, a parent missing such activities consistently can be a huge contributor in turning the child against the parent.
If you notice that your ex is not telling you about the activities that your child is to get involved in, there is a good chance that they are trying to turn your child against you by painting you as an unreliable parent who does not care about their child enough to show up for them.
13. Does not pass along messages from you
This right here is a very obvious sign your ex is turning your child against you because one of the most important factors in keeping any relationship going is communication. A relationship without communication is as good as dead.
This is what your ex will be hoping to do by refusing to pass on messages that you send to them to pass along to your child. It is especially effective when the child is too young to have access to phones or social media and when custodial arrangements give them more time with the child than you.
When you do get time, try to find out from your child whether they received whatever messages you sent and if the answer is negative consistently, you should take remedial actions immediately.
14. Your ex interferes with your communication with your child
A good sign that the divorced husband is turning the children against their mother is when he tries to interfere in the communication between the mother and child. The husband will try to limit time spent on the phone, or if he is the primary parent, he will try to limit the time the children spend with their mother.
This is a form of alienation and manipulation as he is trying to push the other parent away and turning their children against her because eventually, he will either tell the children that their mother doesn’t spend time with them because she doesn’t love them, or they will come to the same conclusion by deducing that their mother’s lack of communication or spending time with them means that she doesn’t care for them.
15. Allows child to misbehave to you
A child that is not on your side will not respect you and will seek to show this to you (whether consciously or unconsciously) by undermining your authority in the best way they know how, by misbehaving.
And even if their misbehavior has nothing to do with their respect or lack thereof for you, what is important is how your ex reacts to it.
If you find that they allow it to happen then you should be concerned because it could point to them trying to turn your child against you by either encouraging the disrespect or trying to paint themselves as the more lenient option.
16. Your ex bad mouths you to your children
If you suspect that or have ever thought to yourself “I think my ex-girlfriend is turning my child against me” you may want to listen to how she speaks about you to you or other people or to you when your child is around.
Children are very impressionable and even though your ex may not be bad-mouthing you directly at your child/ren if she badmouths you and they can hear her, she is setting you up and convincing them that you are the bad guy.
17. Lies to your child about abuse
We don’t like to see this but it happens. An ex lying about abuse to paint the other parent as a monster. If your child begins to repeat nonexistent allegations of abuse against your ex, you should be concerned by this obvious sign of brainwashing in a child because that is what it is.
Allegations of abuse are quite serious because they could have the long-lasting effect of children turning against both parents when for instance, they first turn against the parent that allegedly abused the other and then turn against the parent that lied when they figure out that it was a lie.
If you hear even a whiff of this when you are innocent, you should deal with it swiftly.
18. Does not honor the custodial agreement
Custodial agreements are often known to the children involved which allows them to plan for the times they will spend with both parents.
Your ex could sometimes refuse to honor these agreements and then lie to your child to make it seem as though you are unreliable.
Dishonoring custodial agreements is a serious legal matter however so you can go through lawyers to overcome this relatively easily.
19. Relocates to another area to deny you access
If your ex has more custody rights than you do and decides to relocate to another city or area, this could drastically affect the relationship you have with your child because it would reduce your avenues for communicating with them.
If your ex wanted to turn your child against you, this could be a strategy that they would pursue as it is effective yet difficult to prove because several reasons could be given for the relocation.
6 Ways to deal with it
20. Don’t blame the child
A friend once confided in me about how she was noticing her ex-husband turning her daughter against her and how she couldn’t help but feel that her daughter should know better.
If you are feeling the same way, find a way to overcome it because this is the wrong attitude to have.
I did not know it at the time but the advice I gave to my friend is the same one experts in family matters advise as well which is that you need to realize that your child is as much the victim here as you are. This means that you cannot blame them for what is happening just as you cannot blame yourself. The blame should squarely go to the instigator, your ex.
21. Don’t speak badly of your ex
Another thing you want to avoid doing is to stoop down to the level of your ex by denigrating them as well. You need to maintain your integrity in front of your child regardless of how hard it gets so that when the truth comes out, you will be properly vindicated.
Speaking ill of your ex would also put your child in a difficult position of not knowing who to believe and they could end up losing respect for both of you when they find out the truth, not to mention the emotional trauma that comes with watching their parents behave in such a manner.
22. Don’t compete with your ex
In the same vein as the above, you should avoid trying to compete with your ex to try to win your child back to your side.
You must maintain your values and who you are instead of being pushed into a different style of parenting just so you can have one over your ex.
For instance, say your ex-girlfriend is turning your child against you, do not begin to buy expensive gadgets for your child to win back their love if it is not something you are accustomed to doing. This could spoil your child and have long-term repercussions on the way they relate to other people.
Show your child you love them by telling them how much you love them unconditionally.
23. Reminisce about the good times
Memories are a great tool to use to disprove the attempts by your ex to vilify you to your child. By talking about the times that you have spent with your child with them, they will be less likely to believe any lies your ex tells them to make you seem like a bad parent.
In cases where your child is too young to remember some of these good memories, you can use pictures and videos to remind them.
24. Take your allotted time with your child seriously
In trying to turn your child against you, your ex will be looking for any opportunity for you to slip up so that they can capitalize on it and make you look back.
You should therefore be very careful when it is your turn to be with your child for instance, by making sure you show up on time to either meet with them or pick them up.
Another tip – if you are going to be late to meet your child or can’t pick them up that day, tell them yourself. Do not allow your ex to come up with a story that can insinuate that you hate your child or that you are unreliable in any way.
25. Seek legal redress
Matters involving parental alienation can be very stressful on the parent being alienated and can lead to a lot of strong emotions that if acted upon, could make things worse.
This is why it is best not to directly confront your ex if you believe they are trying to alienate you. Instead, you should seek out the services of a lawyer who can then advise you on the best course of action based on your unique circumstances.
If you cannot afford a lawyer, an option would be to reach out to an intermediary who can be a neutral party in the conflict such as a religious or community leader.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How do you know if your ex is brainwashing your child?
- Your child displays less affection towards you
- Your child shows hostility towards your family members and friends
- Your ex does not tell you about your child’s school activities
- Your ex lies to your child about being abused by you
- Your child reduces the frequency at which they visit you
2. How do you tell if a parent is manipulating a child?
- The parent lies about the other parent to the child
- The parent allows the child to misbehave in front of the other parent
- The parent does not honor custodial agreements relating to visitation and contact with the other parent.
- The parent does not update the other parent on the extracurricular activities of the child
- The parent does not pass messages from the other parent to the child.
3. What to do when your ex is turning your child against you?
- Avoid blaming your child for it
- Avoid competition with your ex
- Talk to a lawyer
- Try to remind your child of the good memories you have together
- Show up on time to pick your child and for their events
4. Can you call DHS if your ex-husband is turning your child against you?
No, you cannot call the Department of Homeland Security when you suspect your husband is turning your child against you. You should, however, contact your lawyer if your ex is going against court orders.
Parental alienation is not something to be treated lightly and if you suspect that it is happening, you should take action. You should however bear in mind that most parents are naive alienators which means that they may unknowingly behave in an alienating manner now and then.
The problem comes when your ex is actively alienating you and knows that they are doing so.
For you to be certain that this is the case, the signs described above would have to have happened on multiple occasions, and only then should you seek solutions.
The courts are always open to help you and you can as well reach out to lawyers to increase your knowledge on the matter.
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