PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN FROM THE HIGH CONFLICT OF DIVORCE
Judith Margerum, Ph.D.
You can't protect your children from
the sadness and loss that goes along
with divorce but you can and need to protect them from the ugliness of ongoing parental conflict. Seeing parents argue and disagree on occasion is not going to damage children. In fact, it is only normal to see parents disagree. It can even be healthy to observe adults disagreeing and coming to resolution.
Children need to learn that conflict can occur in a healthy and respectful manner. What is not healthy is for children to see and hear ongoing conflict between parents that is disparaging. Researchers have found that ongoing, high conflict is what causes the most damage for children.
Children whose parents remain in high conflict for years after divorce are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, behavioral and even substance abuse problems. They often feel caught in the middle of the conflict and may end up taking sides with one parent against the other. They can become more manipulative because the parents will believe anything they say about the other parent. They know their parents won't check things out because they don't speak with each other. Children learn from watching the adults around them. If they see disrespect they will learn that it is okay to disrespect their parents and other adults.
When parents undermine each other, share information about child support, personal adult business and court events children get drawn into a conflict that should not be theirs. They may even take up the battle for a parent that they feel has been wronged. This could range from emotionally disconnecting to disrespect and ultimately refusing to spend time with that parent.
When caught up in the parental conflict children lose their childhoods. Making sure that you are emotionally divorced will be a gift to your children as well as yourselves.