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  • Writer's pictureTemara Willis

Dealing with a Co-Parent Who Gaslights You

Co-parenting conflicts and gaslighting behaviour

Navigating co-parenting can be challenging, especially when dealing with a co-parent who engages in gaslighting. Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation where one person tries to make the other doubt their perceptions, memories, or reality. This can be particularly harmful in a co-parenting relationship, where effective communication and trust are essential for the well-being of your children. At Adelaide Family Mediation, we understand these complexities and are here to help you manage and overcome these challenges.


Recognising Gaslighting Behaviours


Gaslighting can be subtle, making it difficult to recognise. Here are a couple of examples that might resonate:


  1. Denial of Events - Your co-parent may insist that events did not happen the way you remember them. For instance, you might recall a discussion where you both agreed on a specific parenting schedule, but they later deny that any such agreement was made, leaving you questioning your memory.


  1. Shifting Blame - They may blame you for issues they caused, making you feel responsible for problems that are out of your control. For example, they might say, “The kids are upset because you’re always so emotional,” when, in fact, their behaviour is causing distress.


Example of Gaslighting - Sarah and Tom are co-parents who recently separated. Sarah has noticed that their children seem anxious and withdrawn after spending time with Tom. When she brings up her concerns, Tom shifts the blame, saying, “The kids are upset because you’re always so emotional around them. They pick up on your anxiety.” Despite Sarah’s efforts to create a calm and stable environment, Tom’s accusations make her doubt herself, leaving her feeling guilty and confused.


Strategies to Deal with Gaslighting


  1. Document Everything - Keep a record of all communications, including emails, text messages, and notes from conversations. This documentation can help you recall agreements and understand the truth of situations, providing a reference point when your co-parent tries to distort facts.


  1. Seek Support - Engage with a trusted friend, therapist, or support group who can provide a reality check and emotional support. Sharing your experiences with someone who understands gaslighting can reinforce your perceptions and boost your confidence.


  1. Set Boundaries - Clearly define and communicate your boundaries. Let your co-parent know what behaviours are unacceptable, and stick to your boundaries. This might involve limiting direct communication and using mediation services to facilitate discussions.


  1. Use Mediation - Engaging with a neutral third party, like the professionals at Adelaide Family Mediation, can help manage conflicts and ensure fair communication. Mediators can create a structured environment where both parties can express their concerns and work towards a resolution without manipulation.


  1. Engage a Parenting Coordinator - A parenting coordinator can provide ongoing support and guidance in high-conflict co-parenting situations. Their role includes facilitating communication between co-parents, helping implement parenting plans, and making minor decisions to resolve disputes. By working with a parenting coordinator, you can reduce conflict, improve cooperation, and ensure a more stable environment for your children.


How Adelaide Family Mediation Can Help


At Adelaide Family Mediation, we specialise in providing a safe and supportive environment to address and resolve co-parenting conflicts. Our skilled practitioners are trained to recognise and manage manipulative behaviours, ensuring that both parties have a voice in the process. We aim to empower you to regain control over your parenting arrangements and foster a healthy environment for your children.


If you’re struggling with a co-parent who gaslights you, know that you’re not alone. Mediation can be a powerful tool to address these challenges and find a path forward. Contact Adelaide Family Mediation today to learn more about how we can help you create a healthier co-parenting dynamic.


By acknowledging and addressing gaslighting, you can protect your mental health and ensure that your children’s best interests remain the focus. Let us help you navigate this difficult terrain with professionalism and care.

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