Working with 'Chameleon Kids' After a Divorce

When two parents get divorced, the effects on their children can be significant. The stress and uncertainty kids tend to experience during the entire divorce process can turn into a level of anxiety they have never experienced before in their young lives. One of the most common results of this period of emotional turbulence is a phenomenon known as the “chameleon kid.”

Simply put, a chameleon kid is one whose personality shifts depending on the parent with whom they’re spending time. When staying with mom, the child may be mild mannered and well-behaved, but when staying with dad, the child may act up or disobey orders (or vice-versa). Chameleon kids quickly learn to tell their parents exactly what they want to hear, even going as far as to talk badly about other parent — if they believe that will make mom or dad happy.

This phenomenon is more likely to be a problem when divorced parents do not communicate well with each other. Unless the parents regularly speak about how the children are doing, the only people who are likely to notice right away are people who see them interact with both sets of parents, such as babysitters, grandchildren and friends’ parents.

Chameleon kids are often emotionally vulnerable. What starts off as a need to seek acceptance in the home eventually seeps into their social lives as well. Chameleon kids are more likely to give in to peer pressure, which can lead to early alcohol or drug use and negative behavior at school.

If you believe your child is exhibiting chameleon kid symptoms, the best step you can take is to be completely open about your concerns and focus on his or her well-being. Never place any blame on your child or the other parent — instead, focus on how you and your former partner can both continue to create a stable home environment and make sure your child knows he or she is loved by both of you.

For sound legal guidance on a wide range of child custody and visitation issues, speak with a knowledgeable Tampa Bay divorce attorney at the Law Office of K. Dean Kantaras.

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