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What is a loyalty conflict?

Loyalty, particularly to one's parents and family, is usually a valuable quality for a child in Florida to have. However, if you are divorcing your child's other parent and the split is particularly contentious, your child could experience a psychological phenomenon called loyalty conflict. According to Psychiatric Times, some children end up resolving their inner conflict in a way that is unhealthy, both to themselves and their relationships with parents. 

Loyalty conflict stems from a phenomenon called cognitive dissonance. This occurs because of the existence of two thoughts that seem to be contradictory or incompatible with each other in a person's mind at the same time. Despite the fact that they seem to contradict one another, both thoughts have the appearance of truth, at least in your child's mind.

In a divorce scenario, one of these thoughts may involve the love that the child has for both parents and the desire to maintain a positive relationship with each. However, when you and the other parent are in conflict, you may consciously or unconsciously send messages to your child that the other parent is a bad person, or the other parent may do the same about you. This is the source of the cognitive dissonance your child experiences, which can, in turn, lead to a loyalty conflict. 

A child's desire to maintain a positive relationship with both parents is normal and healthy, but the child may perceive it as impossible when the parents are in conflict. Your child may develop parental alienation, a mental process in which he or she chooses to reject one parent and align with the other, as a coping mechanism. As a result, he or she may express a wish to remain with one parent over the other during custody hearings.

However, this is not a foregone conclusion. Some children cope with the conflict by declaring neutrality in hearings regarding child custody, expressing a wish for both parents to share the responsibilities. Other coping measures include removing themselves from the contentious situation or informing their parents that they do not want to be a pawn in the conflict. Each of these is a more constructive strategy. 

Nevertheless, it is preferable that the child never develops a loyalty conflict in the first place. You can help to prevent this by attempting to maintain cordial communications with your spouse during custody negotiations and other divorce proceedings. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.

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