Choosing Sides: Loyalty Conflicts in Co-Parenting

September 14th


parents arguing in front of kids

There are few things more heart-breaking than being rejected by your own child. This can happen to all parents from time to time, but can be especially impactful for co-parenting families. After separation or divorce, kids sometimes struggle to navigate their relationships with each parenting partner and may feel as if they need to take sides or prove their allegiance. These loyalty conflicts, as they’re called, can wreak havoc on the entire family unit. This week, KohParenting is diving into the topic to share our best practices for managing this common problem. Whether your child identifies you as the “hero” or “villain” of this story, read on: we’ve got suggestions for every co-parent that will help you restore balance to your family dynamic.

The Gist

Loyalty conflicts are common in co-parenting families. They refer to the struggle a child feels to prove allegiance or loyalty to one parent over the other. They can also refer to the child’s need to defend or support a biological parent over the other parent’s new romantic partner.
Loyalty conflicts are more likely in high-conflict situations, or when parents have badmouthed each other to the other child, used their child as a “go-between,” or attempted to win their child’s favor over the other parent through bribery, gifts, permissive parenting, etc.
Both the “preferred” parent and “non-preferred” parent owe it to their child to restore balance in their relationships. They can do this by working on their own relationship, refraining from putting their child in the middle, keeping consistent rules and routines, and supporting each other’s need to connect with their child.

Loyalty Conflicts Defined

According to Psychiatric News, “A conflict of loyalty exists when a person has a duty of loyalty to more than one entity and the interests of those entities diverge” (source). In other words, the term describes the conundrum of feeling a sense of duty or responsibility toward two distinct people, businesses, concepts, tasks, etc. and being unable to fulfill those obligations simultaneously. It describes the ethical struggle of being torn between two sides, feeling as if you can’t adequately ally yourself to both and must make a choice of one over the other.

By Koh-Parenting Services LLC

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