What are the Effects of Divorce on Children?
Parental separation can turn a child’s life upside down. Generally, separated parents have good intentions to shield their children from conflict. Sometimes however, children can feel as though they are the rope in a tug-of-war battle.
Conflict between parents can be as obvious as physical altercations, yelling or name calling. More subtle conflict, can be overhearing nasty comments about the other parent, seeing Mum roll her eyes when Dad calls or Dad suggesting his household is better than Mum’s household.
Divorce can have adverse psychological effects on children, as their perceptions and behaviours change due to the conflict they witness.
How Do Children Cope With Their Parents Getting a Divorce?
As a coping mechanism, some children lie about what happens in the other household to prevent conflict or to not upset a parent. For example, if Dad has a new partner, a child may describe the new partner to Mum as mean and nasty, when in fact she is not, just so Mum won’t be upset. Some children feel they have to say negative things about the other parent to receive affection.
Over time, these children can become so desperate for acceptance they will say and do anything to appease people in their life to the extent they begin to engage in dangerous activities.
Where parents cannot communicate at all, children can feel it is their responsibility to organise time arrangements. This may be appropriate for children who are older teenagers, young children should just be left to be children and not be burdened.
What is a “High Conflict” Divorce and Why Should You Avoid This Situation?
A high conflict divorce is when a marriage ends with bitter feelings between spouses, where children can often be used in pawns in a battle over who gets what within the divorce. Exposure to frequent high conflict between parents can have an enormous negative impact upon a child’s mental health and can impact relationships they have with other people when they grow older.
Unresolved high conflict can teach children that the only way to resolve conflict is to name call and shove the other person. Healthy disagreements where conflict is resolved without violence or name calling can teach children how to appropriately resolve conflict.
How Do You Deal With a High Conflict Divorce?
- Maintain Respectful Communication: If the communication between you and your spouse starts to become disrespectful, cut off communication until your partner can control their behaviour. It is important that you do not become a target for abuse and make sure you create boundaries during discussions.
- Do Not Be Intimidated Or Bullied: Whilst these separation discussions can be difficult, its important to maintain your best interests and do not succumb to manipulation or intimidation. If your spouse begins to use traps, manipulation, abuse or tries to play you, make sure you stand up for your rights and involve an expert divorce lawyer who can help guide your decisions based on your best interests.
- Do Not Involve Children During Discussions: It is important to not involve your children in these types of divorce discussions or use them as messengers. Children should not have to worry about the burdens of divorce and should not have to deal with these high conflict situations, as this can create psychological stress. Ensure that respect is displayed when having any discussions with your spouse in front of children.
It is crucial after a separation to let children be children, and not involve them in parental conflict.
Specialist advice can be obtained for families who cannot resolve high conflict, including therapy and legal assistance, to create a brighter future.