Hostility in your divorce - It's affecting your kids

Divorce is undoubtedly a challenging time as parents and children adjust to necessary changes in home life, daily routine, and new roles within the family.  It is a time of transition, and it is to be expected that such a significant event in the life of a family would have some effect on children.  It can be damaging, however, when the split is characterized by shouting matches, manipulation, name calling, custody battles, denied parenting time, and endless conflict.

What people may not know is that these sorts of disputes can have a range of effects on children of all ages, including infants.  Babies' developmental task is to learn to trust their primary caregivers.  Babies pick up their social cues from their caregiver, so a home that has constant fighting or tension can lead to distressed infants who are crabby or angry.  School-aged children, who are learning to develop social relationships with their peers, see the tension between their parents as being their fault.  They are more likely to show physical signs of distress such as stomach aches or having an increasing amount of accidents.  During adolescence, the constant quarreling between parents may lead to increased incidents of anxiety and depression, and teens are more likely to turn to drinking, to develop eating disorders, or to isolate themselves from others.  Older teens often exhibit signs of emotional and behavioral distress when the tension between their divorced parents is bitter and ongoing.  They are more prone, for instance, to juvenile delinquency, anxiety, depression, aggression, hostility, drinking, and drug use.  Tension in their home life can also lead to problems in school. 

Maintaining a healthy relationship with your children

For kids to cope with divorce and the ongoing conflict between their parents, it is important for there to be a healthy relationship between the parents and children.  Parents can spend a lot of energy dealing with their own frustrations and forget to give priority to their children, to spend quality time with them, and to talk to them about what is going on.  When this healthy relationship is lacking, it is well known to have a negative impact on a child’s development and can lead to physical and emotional impairments, low self-esteem, and difficulty forming relationships with others. 

It can be challenging, however, to maintain a healthy relationship with children when the shouting and name calling between parents prevents them from cooperating to provide care for their children.  Parenting tends to become problematic as rules at both homes are not uniformly enforced and the parents’ expectations of the children are different.  When parents are at each other’s throat, the children naturally feel that they cannot love both.  When they have a warm and loving relationship with one parent, they often think that it means that they have to reject the other.  They become torn between the two parents and ultimately may withdraw from one or both parents. 

Managing conflict

When parents are able to avoid name-calling, fighting, or heated disputes and find a better way to deal with their problems, children are better able to cope.  In situations in which parents show each other mutual respect, are able to control their emotions, find ways to resolve their disputes, or explain to children their unresolved conflicts, kids are happier and have an easier time adjusting to their new family situation. 

It becomes important, then, that parents contemplating divorce identify legal professionals who will help them work through their differences rather than foster further animosity.  A qualified family law attorney familiar with alternative methods of dispute resolution and with experience handling high-conflict divorces can prove to be a valuable source of support for a family during such a difficult time.  For more information about how our attorneys can assist you and your family, contact our office to schedule an appointment.   

Categories: Children, Relationships

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