Parental divorce

Children and parental conflict

Parental divorce is one of the most intense stressful situations for the child. In the majority of cases, aften the initial agitation, fear, anger, guilt and hope, the child eventually gets adjusted to the new situation and new life, especially if s/he also has a good relationship with the non-custodial parent and if the divorce has facilitated a more peaceful child development. Children whose parents divorced without hostilities and brawling generally cope with their parents’ divorce more easily. However, in cases of high conflict, children will not thrive.

Possible negative effects of parental conflict during the divorce: the child’s pronounced aggression , impulsivity, distress, self-accusations, a need for situation control, low self-esteem, poor social skills, psychosomatic disorders, regressive behaviour, behaviour difficulties, emotional difficulties – emotional insecurity, disturbances in emotion regulation… Long-term consequences of a high conflict divorce are most expressed in children who were pre-schoolers at the time of divorce. It is most difficult for the children of this age to cope with extended parental conflict. It interferes with emotional organisation experience in early childhood and is related to the development of insecure or disorganised attachment, which may affect all later relationships, lead to increased sensitivity to stress, disturbances in emotion regulation, lower optimism and development of ineffective mechanisms or coping strategies.

It is important that parents observe their children’s reactions during the divorce, and that they, if necessary, ask professional advice for their children and themselves; that they do not blame the other parent in front of their children; that they tell the child they know and approve of the child’s love for the other parent and that they encourage contacts with the non-resident parent. Children need parental permission to love both parents. They need to know that the divorce is an adult issue, that they are not guilty or responsible for that. They need stability and predictability and they need to see their parents communicating without brawl and conflict. They need parents who co-operate in their upbringing, regardless of what they feel towards each other. It is important to avoid putting the child in the middle of divorce.