There are some strong signs that appear in most brainwashing households. You can't be there in person to observe all the things said, the lies told, or the subtle put-downs, so you will have to look elsewhere: to the telephone, cellphone, text messages, and emails. Signs that your child is being brainwashed against you:
- Your ex is often heard speaking to your child in the background (and your child will frequently cover up the phone with his or her hand)
- Your child is flat, mono-toned, or sad when he or she gets your phone call
- Your phone calls or texts are not returned
- Cellphones you buy for your kid are rarely used to call you, but used routinely by your ex to contact your child when he or she is with you
- No calls on your birthday or Father's/Mother's Day, and rarely or never a card or e-card
- Your child asks you questions inappropriate for their age
- Your child is used as a messenger by your ex
- Your child complains about his or her last visit (usually of trivial things)
- Your child claims out of the blue that "I don't want to see you"
- Your child seems unable to echo any "I love you's"
- Your child echoes the words of your ex (words a child of that age would never use)
- Your child refers to you by your first name, either to you directly or at home while away from you
- Your ex refers to you when speaking to your child in the background by your first name
- Your child will say "Why haven't you called me" when in fact you've tried
- You rarely get an acknowledgement of any cards of presents sent
(Information taken from website: http://www.brainwashingchildren.com/)
Now that we have covered the most important ways to prevent PAS, the next question that arises (and that I have heard from many people in my direct circle of acquaintances who have also had to deal with this); what can be done when PAS has ransomed your kids?
It is not easy to find an answer... Especially when the Alienation has been going on for a very long time. In all cases, I would say, identifying the problem and seeking help as soon as possible is the second best answer to prevention
. The sooner the better. Another wise saying from my Grandma: "Least said; Soonest Mended". Certainly, the psychological wounds shall be much quicker to heal if ex-partners realize sooner in the game that they are hurting their children more than anyone.
- Realize that you are not alone! Many parents and grandparents have had to deal with the consequences of PAS. Look for support in various support groups (there are many to be found on the internet) and, if necessary, arrange for personal counselling or therapy.
- Enjoy your life! While realizing that this point seems to be a contradiction in terms when you are a targeted parent in a case of PAS, speaking from experience I can say that it is possible to still enjoy your life, and even a necessity to do so! Your children will observe you (from a distance), and be inspired by your strength of character. All parents have to let their children go at a certain point in time. If you happen to have to deal with PAS, then that 'point of time' came sooner than you expected. None of us can guarantee that our children will still want to be with us after they have grown up. Sometimes kids harbour resentment for things that happened in the past even if there is no divorce situation involved. All of us make mistakes, and sooner or later despite the mistakes we made parenting our kids they will have to realize (as we ourselves have hopefully realized at one point) that we all are responsible for the choices we make in our own lives, and the blame cannot be eternally put upon our upbringing. That is a recipe for continuing personal failure, and the only person we hurt in doing so is ourselves. We have given our children the gift of life, but that does not mean that our children are 'our possessions'. We still have our individual identity, and are still responsible to walk our own path of life, even if our children may choose to not walk this path in our continuing company.
- Show your children unconditional love. Send them gifts at Christmas or for their birthday, try to be at important events (even if you are in the background). Be involved and interested in (school) achievements. Send letters or cards. Being a parent means you always have the right to follow your children's progress at school and make an appointment with their teacher to discuss this, regardless of whether or not you still officially have the juridic status of owning Parental Authority. (In the Netherlands Parental Authority is taken away from the natural parents after children have been placed in foster homes for more than two years as a matter of Standard Procedure.) You also still have the right to call their family doctor and discuss any health concerns you may have about your child as long as they are under age. They will see what you have done and continue to do, and be glad and impressed (perhaps secretly) that you are still interested in them and care for them.
- Be willing to talk (and forgive) when they want to talk. Do not force them to talk until they are ready to do so.
- Continually treat your ex-partner with respect. After a while the children will notice the difference, and start to question the methods used by others when they see your example.
- Save documents. Record events. It will help your children to decipher the past and make up their own mind about things when they try to understand what has happened to them.
- Be confident! Dare to live in the same town as your kids and ex-partner, be at events, walk with your head held high. You don't have to cause a scene (this will damage your kids even further) but you also don't have to shy away. You know your conscience is clean. Don't be afraid to let others know (non-verbally) that you do not feel intimidated by their gossiping or slander.
The ex-wife of friend of mine who was divorced in the 1980's was able to arrange for solo custody of their 2 children. (In the 1980's things looked especially glum for the dads involved in typical custody battles, because professionals and judges were not yet aware of the essential role a dad has in the healthy development of a growing child.) As a response my friend decided to buy a house one street further down from where his ex-wife decided to live with the children. The children saw him almost every day (from a distance). He would wave and would always send presents for their birthdays, although he was never invited to be there by his ex-wife. The years passed and the children grew curious, and eventually his children always dropped by after school to first say 'Hi' to dad before they came home to mom. The link was laid and contact restored. After that the mother's indoctrinations only worked in her disfavour. Contact with his grown up children has been completely restored. This is a story with a 'happy end', although my friend says that it took a lot of time and patience. Many years had gone by before he could really see the result of his earlier actions and consistency.
Dr. Gardniner has mentioned earlier that well- meaning counsellors or therapists will often try to reassure desperate parents with the assurance that their kids would come back one day, eventually. Dr. Gardiner has observed that this is often in reality not possible because of the great gap of years in which a child has not ever seen or heard from his or her parent. Restoration won't happen magically on its own. If we follow the mentioned tips above then the contact is still there, even if it is in the background. This may make a reunion more feasible in the future.
As I have mentioned before, there are no guarantees. Our children are not our own. Many events that take place in life are not within our own power to control, but perhaps we can change our own behaviour to create a situation more conductive to healing and reunion. We can't 'eradicate the disease from existence' but we can influence our own situation to prevent it from happening or promote a speedy recovery.
Here are some helpful (Dutch) links that you may be interested in: