MARK SAINSBURY: Send brainwashing parents to jail

Not one of us would turn a blind eye to child abuse.

We would all like to think we take public health issues like smoking and drinking seriously. But here’s a wake-up call: Some of us may be guilty of a form of child abuse just as important in terms of public health.

I’m talking about the ugly consequence of a relationship breakdown: The brainwashing of a child by one partner against the other.

According to Anthony Douglas, the head of Britain’s Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service, parental alienation is undoubtedly a form of neglect or child abuse in terms of the impact it can have.

Relationships breakdowns can be ugly, bitter, gut-wrenching affairs for the two parties.

But then there’s the innocent parties in all of this: the kids. Many times you hear couples say if anything happened between us there’s no way the kids would be pawns in the fallout.

What Anthony Davies is saying is a growing number of parents aren’t living up to that promise. In fact the manipulation of a child by one parent against the other has become so common it must be treated as abuse. It’s brainwashing and the perpetrators should go to jail for it.

The sad thing with all of this is that it means we are putting our kids second. The hurt and pain and desire for revenge is so strong within us after a breakup that we can’t resist using our kids as weapons.

The really sad thing is we may not even realise it. We believe so strongly that the other party is wrong and doesn’t deserve their children’s love we would happily turn them against the ex.

So we’ve had the warning - now what can we do? Other countries have legislated parental alienation we should be examining that too.

The problem is the Family Court in this country is woefully under-resourced and over-worked. Even the simple cases can drag on for years, as one judge warned recently.

In fact court time can last longer than the marriage and this is over something relatively simple like property.

Kids are not property - but they seem to get treated like it. We owe them a better way.

Mark Sainsbury hosts Morning Talk from 9am-midday on RadioLIVE