​Your Child’s Life Can Improve as You Separate and Divorce, and So Can Yours

Children should not hear or witness conflict between parents.

In many families the issues which ultimately lead to divorce damage the children in a number of ways prior to the separation of the parents. For example, arguments (sometimes with physical altercation or other violence) really frighten children. Most often permanently.

In addition, those events consume time. When parents are arguing or fighting they are not sharing time with their children in any meaningful or beneficial way.

Make no mistake about it, loud, threatening words, aggressive or cowering postures, fast movements, and pleas for relief or help, are violence. Heard or witnessed by a child, they leave permanent memories and psychic triggers which remain long after the child’s memory can not access the events.

The separation of he parties offers not only the potential for relief from the damaging effects of those behaviors on children; it also offers increased parenting time which replace those damaging experiences with very positive ones, in a number of ways. For example the contrast between a loud frightening, conflicted environment and a quiet peaceful one is not only striking; it is the difference between terror and love for the child.

As the parties separate, damaging behaviors can easily be replaced by nourishing ones, such as reading to the child. Think about the difference for your child between hearing you read in a quiet room and overhearing yelling by or at you.

And the parents get equal benefits. Reading to your child is obviously of incalculable benefit to your child. You will find though, that you get some real relief from your adult stressors as you teach your child by the sound of your relaxed voice, how to experience real childhood. Your life and your future will improve with your child’s life and future.

Children should not be used by their parents in conflict.

Sometimes parents become so focused on their issues in divorce that they thoughtlessly involve their children in damaging ways in the conflict between the parents. This happens in a number of ways, all of which are damaging to the children.

For example, sometimes a parent will seek to enlist a child as an ally in that parent’s conflict with the other parent, by, in obvious or subtle ways, teaching the child that the other parent is the bad one, or that this parent is the victim.

This sort of thing is very damaging to a child. First it puts the child’s love and loyalty for one parent at odds with the child's love and loyalty for the other parent. Second it assigns to the child an impossible task - to get right between the adults and participate in the struggle between them.

Sometimes children are encouraged by one parent to say things to the other parent which are intended to be hurtful and/or to exacerbate the conflict, like "Why don’t you pay your child support, Daddy?" Or "Mommy says I should call her new boyfriend ‘Daddy.’" Sometimes children are encouraged to say things to the other parent which will frighten the child him- or herself, like "Daddy says that he will kill himself if we don’t go back to him."

Sometimes children are encouraged by one parent to report back information about the other parent. There is a line here, between the entirely legitimate need for a parent to monitor the child’s experience with the other parent, and causing the child to become a spy for conflict-between-the-parents purposes.

It is never a good idea to involve children in adult issues between their parents, and parents should be alert to impulses they may feel to do so.

About Kent

Kent Bourland's Profile Image
I was graduated from the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts in 1963, with a major in Political Science and a minor in History. I then attended the University of Michigan Law School and graduated in 1967 with a Juris D… Read More

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