Co-Parenting During Divorce: How to Avoid Loyalty Conflicts
As a family mediator, parents are constantly asking me how they can help their children through their separation/divorce. In scouring research on child development & divorce, I found something really interesting: a recent American study has revealed that if the parents can avoid "loyalty conflicts" their children will have a much easier time adjusting to the separation and can continue to thrive while doing so.
What Are Loyalty Conflicts?:
A loyalty conflict occurs when the child tries to maintain a positive relationship with both parents, but feels like either or both parent wants the child to "choose a side" or "remain loyal" to one over the other.
How Do Loyalty Conflicts Hurt The Child?
A recent study from Sweden revealed that when a child feels like they are caught in a loyalty conflict, they can suffer from great stress. This stress can manifest itself as: sleeping problems, headaches, stomachaches, tenseness, and sadness.
How Can We Avoid Loyalty Conflicts?
1. Show the Child You're a Team: Even if you and your co-parent are not always on the same page, you child should THINK you are. Showing your child a united front will keep them from thinking their are "sides" to pick from. Co-parents should definitely remain a united front regarding discipline, values and schedules as much as possible so the child can feel secure.
2. Encourage the Relationship Between Your Child and the Other Parent: the best way to avoid a loyalty conflict is to encourage the relationship between your child and their other parent. Be sure to encourage them to enjoy their time when with the other parent and reinforce how much the other parent loves them.
3. Maximize Time Spent With Each Parent: Children who get to see their parents equally and often report easier adjustment experiences with the divorce process, then children who see one parent much less than the other. When going through the separation/divorce process, give a lot of thought to your post-separation life and how you and your co-parent can see the children as much as possible.
More reading (Sources):