Reducing the effects of conflict on children in high conflict divorces

Divorce and separation can be a very stressful time for parents, and for children.  It is normal for children to feel grief over the loss of the family unit – this can be exacerbated when there is a high level of parental conflict.

In situations of extreme conflict, children can suffer a variety of negative outcomes – for example, mental health issues (anxiety, depression, etc.); they may also fall behind in school or suffer from substance abuse problems.

Here’s the list of “don’ts”:

  1. Do not ask the child to be a messenger between the two homes.
  2. Do not make negative remarks about the other parent in front of the child; discourage the child from making negative remarks about the other parent.
  3. Do not ask the child about the other parent’s dating life or significant others.
  4. Do not discuss the separation on social media.
  5. Do not talk about who is to blame for the separation. Use age-appropriate language; spare the details.
  6. Do not discuss the other parent’s compliance (or lack thereof) with court orders or agreements.
  7. Allow children to have a voice, not a choice – ask their feelings, don’t get them to decide.

Here’s the “do’s”:

  1. Encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent – visits, facetime, calls, etc.
  2. Allow the child to keep photographs of the other parent in their room.
  3. Have consistent rules between the two households – especially for important matters.
  4. Use the same child care – it promotes stability and consistency for the child.
  5. Help the child cope with the separation – give them an outlet to talk to someone neutral.

The costs of conflict on children can be very high and might not be apparent until later in life.  Do everything possible to shelter your child from parental conflict.