The Divided Child in Shared Custody

The Divided Child:

In some situations, generally, in more high conflict situations, children will become completely divided in their identity between the two parents or households. The children will exhibit a split- identity in between relating to different parents or family members with the parents primarily being the cause of the creation of two different identities. Particular parent actions can be to blame for the psychological damage that creates the two different identities and the fluctuation of identity shifts places the child in significant risk for dangerous situations as the child matures. Also known as chameleon children, the children in question are prone to particular characteristics and traits; such as, dramatic shifts in personalities between houses, shifts in clothing style, shifts in hobbies, interest, speech, and severe emotional swings. It is common for these types of children to add to parent conflict as they will side with both parents during a dispute and alter stories of events to make the parents happy—especially if the child is aware of how the parent feels about the other parent. The children may exhibit no fixed self-identity when the child should developmentally begin to have fixed characteristics about their identity that naturally develop and progress with age.

Actions that Promote a Divided Child:

• Parents may express to the child a desire for the child to not be like the other parent.
• Parents intentionally creating a vast difference between standard of care/ discipline, structure between the homes.
• Parents intentionally acting out in hostile aggressive behaviors.
• Parents encouraging their children to mimic their emotional behaviors
• Parents refusing a child’s personal belongings from the other parents residence.
• Parents calling the same child by two different names or variations of the same name.

For more lists of actions that promote a divided child please reference terms of Hostile Aggressive Parenting and Parent Alienation Syndrome.

Dangers of a Divided Child:

Because a divided child is overly flexible and adaptive in their identity they have a tendency to adapt to various situations without referencing their own ideologies. As children grow older they have a tendency to still promote people pleasing habits out of fear of abandonment or rejection. This fear and behavioral tendency makes the child vulnerable to peer pressures and sheep like mentality. Children with prolonged exposure to this type of environment and life style are more likely to engage in group like criminal behavior, gangs, and join cult followings. In sever situations or under immense pressure the child may develop irreparable psychological divisions of identity; like those exhibited in split or multiple personality disorders. The child may also have a higher inclination to commit criminal acts, act out against social norms, exhibit intense negative emotions, and become self-hating, depressed, and or suicidal.

How to Stop a Child from Being Divided:

The first step is to prevent reoccurring conflict by the parents in front of the child. A court may order a parent to stop acting out with hostile aggressive parenting behaviors or any other behavior that is conflicting with the best interest of the child. In some situations a child may be removed by either party or a parent may be required to attend only supervised visitations with the child. Once the damage to the child has occurred the child must rebuild or an intervention must take place so that the child will begin to develop their own identity and not adopt the identities of their company. Therapy may be required to promote a child developing their own age appropriate identity. The longer the child is subjected to the abuse or forced to live with a split identity the longer it will take for the identity of the child to return to promote their own sense of self fulfillment. Again if the damage proceeds past a particular point then the child may be subjected to irreparable emotional and psychological damage. A recovering child should be promoted to develop their individualism while others minimize their personal persuasion. Parents helping their children recover should also avoid deceiving the child about issues or over sharing information that could potentially harm the child’s recovery process. Lastly, the parents should avoid any physical or verbal communications about their feelings about the other parent.

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