Research continues to show that children who experience ongoing conflict between their parents after divorce are at significant risk of poorer adult outcomes in later life. These children have low self esteem, are withdrawn, cannot manage emotion, demonstrate their distress through poor behaviour and have difficulty maintaining friendships and relationships throughout life.
We know that their parents cannot see the wood for the trees. They argue about every little thing from whether Amy will do swimming or ballet (“she can do both but I am not taking her!”) to which Doctor David might see for his stubbed toe. Conflict is hard for anyone to live with and more so for children. Consider these 5 tips to ensure your children do not suffer because of your divorce-
- Don’t involve children in adult issues Children do not need to know and, in most cases, cannot understand the varied issues that will have led to the end of your relationship. There is every chance you don’t really know either! Reassure your children that you both love them and that they will continue to be a priority in your life. Seek professional assistance with your own emotions and do not impart your feelings upon your children.
- Do not say bad things about your former partner. Children are a biological product of their parents. They understand that they are, in essence, half their mother and half their father. By denigrating a child’s mother or father you are, at the same time, slighting that child. This will cause emotional harm to your children and affect their capacity to grow into an emotionally healthy adult.
- Every family is unique. Don’t compare yourself to other families or friends in your situation. A relationship brings two people together with their own views, beliefs and values. These flow into your parenting style. It is important to try and make decisions that suit your family based on what you and your former partner consider to be the best for your children. You both know them better than anyone else.
- Don’t believe everything they tell you. Shelter your children from any arguments and disputes between you. Don’t put your children in the position of having to make decisions about things such as the time they will spend with you or their other parent or significant others in their lives. Children will feel torn and will often tell you things that they think you will want to hear to try and appease you and make you happy. They behave this way to try and show their love for you. Speak with your partner about how you might each manage difficult conversations with your children so that you are presenting your children with consistency and creating the security and boundaries that they need to grow and develop to their full potential.
- Never communicate through your children. Using your children to deliver messages, no matter how unimportant, will make them party to your dispute. Children should not be burdened with tasks that their parents should be undertaking. As difficult as it may be to communicate with your former partner, it is essential that you find an effective way of doing this. Your type and style of communication may change over time. Normally immediately after separation there is a high level of mistrust, emotion, hurt and anger. Perhaps you and your partner might initially retreat to written communication as a way of ensuring that you can slow down and think about what you are each saying. Over time, you might consider including telephone calls to update each other as to how the children are progressing. Communication between the two of you as parents should be limited to issues that relate to your children and should not include unnecessary comments about issues that may be in the past. Great communication is the most essential part of a good post-separation parenting relationship- in fact it is the cornerstone of any successful relationship.
Ongoing conflict costs our children too much. No matter how difficult it becomes, imagine the person that you want your child to be when they grow up and be that person, for them.