Being a part of a family often means feeling a sense of loyalty. Loyalty is not inherently a bad thing – in fact, many people view it as inherently good. However, feelings of loyalty can quickly become mixed and confusing during a divorce, particularly for children.
In some cases, these mixed feelings of loyalty can act as a trap. North Carolina parents must be aware of these potential issues, but what is a “loyalty trap” exactly?
What is a loyalty trap?
Psychology Today highlights four “loyalty traps.” The term essentially refers to trapping children in difficult roles during or after the divorce.
These roles include:
- Spy, which involves informing one parent of the actions or statements of the other
- Messenger, which involves parents communicating through the child
- Confidante, in which parents might share their difficult emotions with the child
- Ally, which involves parents asking for the child’s support
There is no doubt that a divorce can be difficult for the whole family. When dealing with the complex emotions of a divorce, falling into these traps is often unintentional for both parents and children. Children might assume these roles unknowingly because they do feel a sense of loyalty. The trap often stems from the fact that they are loyal to both of their parents.
However, it is important to be aware that there are cases where it could be intentional. One parent might put a child in these roles in an attempt to alienate the other.
How can parents avoid these traps?
The fact that children can fall into these traps unknowingly can be alarming. It can also make them harder to avoid. Even so, it is up to the parents in these situations to protect their children and prevent them from encountering these traps. There are proactive steps parents can take, including:
- Staying consciously aware of these traps
- Addressing their personal emotions, perhaps with professional help
- Communicating with their co-parent effectively
- Putting the children, and their best interests first
It is not always easy for parents to find common ground after a divorce. However, the love they share for their children is one thing that will never change. If parents can work to protect their children’s best interests, then they can also protect their families from these stressful risks.