MY nine year old girl seems like two people at times. One minute she can be the sweetest little girl on the planet, and the next she can lash out, targeting her brother, her mother and I. Her mother and father were recently divorced, and she shares her time with them equally, week on, week off. She is a straight A student, and has never had problems at school with her friends; however, at home she will try and put words in our mouths and say things like "well you just dont love me then" or "you dont want me around anymore". Also, after a week with one parent, while she is bashing the other, she will go back and do the same thing with the other. It seems to me that she is trying to get us (her parents) to fight over her love and attention, which seems a plausible explanation. My question is does this seem to be normal behavior for someone her age, and if so, what can be done to let her know that playing these games is not right and will not be tolerated?
In light of the context (i.e., thwe recent divorce), the behavior is to be expected. However, that does not indicate you should not address it. Her reaction to the divorce indicates that she is wondering: "Where do I stand in the affection of my parents?" Before the divorce, she could relate to her parents as a 'unit', if you will. Now she has a challenge: to establish separate relationships with each parent. This is an oportune time to arrange therapy for her. While the therapist helps her to deal with the emotions, questions, confusions, etc. that she is experiencing around the divorce, the therapsit can also be a help to the parents to offer guidance about how to address the various issues that arise. One of the typical behaviors that children display in the wake of a divorce is playing one side against the other and using questions about parents' affection as leverage. But don't regard this as simply manipulation; she will have legitimate insecurity in relation to how the divorce is going to influence her.
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