One of the most common examples of this is during a divorce.
Both parents are vying for the emotional support of the children. They are consciously manipulating the children to align with them. This might take the form of comments like: “Your father was never a good husband, he was never around, it’s better that he is gone”.
This leaves the children feeling split. Part of them might love their father, but another part feels their mother’s rage and doesn’t want to upset their mother. Maybe they feel her emotional vulnerability and are afraid if they support their father in any way, she will not cope.
How to avoid this as a parent?
- Get the support you need. If you are going through a divorce, it’s big. Take the time you need to see a therapist and be supported through the process.
- If you feel yourself pulling your children into the conflict, stop. Take a step back. Feel into what you are really needing and seek the support you need through friends, family or therapy. It is natural to need to support through a divorce.
If this happened to you as a child. Know that your parent didn’t know and couldn’t do any better at the time. You CAN heal from these toxic relationships and work through the guilt, confusion, anxiety and responsibility.