Impossible Diplomacy: Chameleons trying to please both parents

I frequently come across youngsters who are ‘people pleasing’ – particularly with parents who are separated. They are trying so hard to please both their conflicting parents, they’re being the perfect chameleon. But at what cost?

Some are striving to please both parents who may be at totally opposite ends of the opinion spectrum. This impossible task makes the young person feel or think they are failing by letting someone down pretty much all of the time. By pleasing one parent they upset the other! So their self esteem drops dramatically, they get very confused and lose their self-awareness.


They struggle to develop as people – always burying their thoughts, feelings and desires in case it looks like they are taking sides  with one person or parent. I find that these young people either become too ‘adult-like’, morphing into either parent, or regress. Their behaviour can also change from one extreme to the next. There is a lack of equilibrium as they swing from one parent to the other, or try to address the next issue or event that needs mediating.

And so, suffocating who they really are, they try to be diplomatic in order to control the situation in their lives, a behaviour which is most likely to end in an uncontrolled outburst of anger or anxiety. The ‘real self’ has to come out – and all their frustrations too! This may come as a surprise when your child has been under the radar and then suddenly erupts for no apparent reason. Actually, it’s like a dam holding back the flood of strong emotions that suddenly reaches breaking point and bursts.

‘Chameleon’ children are very good at blending in and will reflect back what their parents or peers want so as to avoid being left out or not accepted. Although it is good be adaptable it can be a strain  if taken to the extreme.