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5 Reasons A Child Is Emotional With Their Protective Parent


protective parent

It's well-known children caught in the middle of a distressing divorce are going to have emotional and behavioral responses to the change in environments as well as the coparenting conflict. Many times protective parents feel worn out because their child is so emotional when they come back from the high-conflict co-parent’s house and this is because the child is often not allowed to have needs or emotions when with the HCCP. Thus, the child is more emotional in response to feeling safe to express themselves when with the protective parent. Whereas when with the HCCP, they will put their needs, emotions, lifestyle plans, etc all before the child because they are emotionally underdeveloped and immature.


Children are wise beyond their years and learn which parent is safe and which parent is not by age 2 when they learn the value of trust. They learn through experiences who they can be authentic around and who they have to wear a mask for to protect themselves from emotional harm. 


Here are 5 reasons children are more emotional with their safe parent: 


  1. Fear Of Repercussions 

  • Protective Parent: The child may feel safe expressing emotions because the protective parent provides a supportive and non-threatening environment for the child to be their true self. 

  • High-Conflict Parent: The child may suppress emotions as the coercive parent may not respond positively or may use the child’s vulnerability against them. Children often fear punishment when with the HCCP and will try to be on their best behavior to appease the parent. 

  1. Loyalty Conflicts

  • Protective Parent: The child feels secure expressing emotions without fears of damaging the parent-child relationship.

  • High-Conflict Parent: Loyalty conflict arises, and the child may suppress emotions to avoid upsetting the coercive parent or to align with their expectations. Many times the HCCP will pull the children into the co-parenting conflict and expect the children to take their side by undermining or slandering the other parent. 

  1. Gaslighting

  • Protective Parent: Open communication allows the child to process emotions without manipulation. Processing of emotions is vital for children to not develop maladaptive behaviors. 

  • High-Conflict Co-Parent: Manipulative tactics and gaslighting may discourage the child from expressing emotions authentically to avoid conflict or confusion. The HCCP teaches children they aren’t allowed to have a voice and it’s their way or the highway mentality. 

  1. Conditional Love 

  • Protective Parent: Unconditional love allows the child to freely express emotions without fear of losing the parent’s affection.

  • High-Conflict Co-Parent: Love may feel conditional for the child in order to meet the coercive parent’s expectations, prompting the child to suppress emotions and to seek approval. Love will often be withheld if the child doesn’t live up to the parent’s demands or image. 

  1. Self Love

  • Protective Parent: The protective parent shields the child from emotional burdens, allowing the child to process emotions appropriately. 

  • High-Conflict Co-Parent: The child may adopt a role reversal, taking on the emotional burdens of the abusive parent, leading to emotional suppression to cope with the added responsibility. This is also known as parentification and has lasting impacts on the healthy development of children. 


If your child is emotional with you, see it as a blessing even if it makes days longer. Know that you are their safe place and allow them to have a voice to be heard and understood. If need further assistance in helping your child regulate their emotions or need a resource for your case, please sign up for a discovery call to learn more about services. 

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