Archive for the 'Parenting & Divorce' Category

Parental Conflict and Children

Thursday, December 17th, 2015

Chronic parental conflict harms children, according to Kathy Eugster, MA, a Counseling Psychology 
Registered Clinical Counselor
, Certified Play Therapist and Supervisor 
Child and Family Therapist. Sociologists and researcher agree that parental conflict is the biggest predictor of poor outcomes for children. The level and intensity of the conflict between parents and resolution are the most powerful determinants of the impact. It does not matter whether the parents are married or divorced.

While children are resilient and highly adaptive and cope with separation and divorce, their parents’ “continuing, unresolved, hostile” battling severely damages them. The longer parental conflict continues and the greater the tension between the parents, the greater the likelihood that psychological difficulties result, including depression, sleep problems, low self-esteem, school problems.

When parents battle, children feel unsafe. Chronic parental conflict pollutes the atmosphere with tension, chaos, disruption and unpredictability when the family environment should be safe and secure and comfortable. Children become anxious, frightened, and helpless. They may worry about their own safety and their parents’ safety even without actual or threatened violence. Children’s may imagine harm coming to them or a family member and they may worry about divorce and being split up.

Children worry about taking sides in the conflict because they want to please both parents but this becomes impossible when they are caught in the middle. They may align with one parent, which can be very destructive and unhealthy for all family members.

Sadly children often believe they are responsible for the parental fighting, and they feel guilty, particularly if they hear arguments about different parenting styles, school issues, or financial issues related to them. The guilt from feeling responsible for their parents’ conflict causes much emotional distress.

Children learn the wrong lessons about parenting when parents only model unhealthy — indeed, destructive — ways to communicate and resolve problems. Most likely, they will learn by example, and that is how they will communicate and solve problems with others when they become adults.

Chronic parental conflict increases stress on parents, which can result in the decreased use of effective parenting skills over time, with a resulting negative impact on the children. When a child constantly hears bad things about one parent from another parent, the danger is that the parent-child relationship of the criticized parent may weaken. This can also work in the opposite direction, since a child can resent a parent who criticizes and refuses to respect the other parent, especially as the child grows older.

The Effects of Conflict on Children

Some children respond to parental conflict by acting out. They may demonstrate behavior problems, increased anger and inability to manage anger, violent behavior, delinquency, and gang involvement. 


Some children respond to parental conflict by turning inward. They are likely to demonstrate depression, isolation from friends and activities, physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches, ulcers, and substance abuse. 


Children who are exposed to parental conflict do not interact well with others. These kids often have very poor social skills, low self-esteem and poor relationships when they become adults. 


Some children exposed to high conflict have trouble thinking. Advances in neuropsychology have shown that when exposed to conflict our brains release stress hormones that over time can actually change brain functioning. The effects of being exposed to conflict show up as problems in school, truancy, impaired thinking (things like problem-solving, abstract reasoning, memory are affected) and symptoms that mimic Attention Deficit Disorder.

Parental conflict is toxic for kids. No parents would dose their children with poison, yet parents who fight in front of their children do just that. The effects of conflict for children are huge. Divorcing parents can protect their children by behaving in front of them. One way to counter the negative effects of conflict on children is to argue cleanly. It take time a to work on solving a problem instead of trying to win at all costs.

Parenting Before the Marriage

Friday, July 11th, 2014

According to sources, about 9O percent of the marriages that take place when a woman is already pregnant end in divorce within six years. A child can enrich married life when the couple is on a firm footing, but the arrival of a child can fracture a weak marriage.

When a pregnancy makes marriage an option, the woman should consider how long she has been in the relationship with the father and whether he is dependable.

It’s a good idea to ask each other whether they would be thinking about marriage if pregnancy were not a factor. She should ask herself if she can trust him and what kind of father he would make.

Marriage is only one option a woman has in facing an unplanned pregnancy.

The Longevity Project: Parental Divorce Shortens Children’s Lives

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

In an eight-decade study, parental divorce in childhood was the strongest predictor of early death in adulthood.

The study of 1,500 Americans born nearly a century ago is an eight-decade research effort by Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin, two psychologists who continued the research begun in 1921 by Lewis Terman. This study followed children from the time they were 10 years old until death, decades later. According to one commentary on the study, “[t]he early death of a parent had no measurable effect on children’s life spans or mortality risk, but the long-term health effects of broken families were often devastating.

“Parental divorce during childhood emerged as the single strongest predictor of early death in adulthood. The grown children of divorced parents died almost five years earlier, on average, than children from intact families. The causes of death ranged from accidents and violence to cancer, heart attack and stroke. Parental break-ups remain, the authors say, among the most traumatic and harmful events for children.”

Overall, those who fared best in the longevity sweepstakes tended to be physically active, to give back to the community, to thrive in work and career, and to have a happy marriage and family life.

Parental Behavior During and After Divorce

Monday, October 20th, 2008

When a couple divorce it is easy to put the children in the middle of disputes. However, the couple must love their children more than they hate each other. Allowing children to be used as pawns in a divorce action is no different than child abuse.

Parental alienation is very quickly utilized when a mother will say, “if your father would only give me more money then I could buy you that outfit”, or “see, your father never picks you up when he says he will”. Rather than push the child away from their parent, it would best serve the adults and more importantly the children, for parents to get along as best as possible.

Remember, adults are the decision makers here, children don’t usually have a say in whether the parents should or should not divorce; nor should they. The children should be protected in every way possible before, during and after the divorce. It is the parents’ duty to facilitate this.

Communicating Effectively With Your Child Through Divorce

Tuesday, September 12th, 2006

Remember to be as open as possible, which will reinforce and even enhance your trust for one another. Many parents find that they do communicate better during divorce and/or separation because it is the first time in a while that they were forced to have meaningful conversations. This is not necessarily the reason in your case, but divorce and/or separation can create a stronger parent-child bond. Communicating effectively with your child actually gives him or her the sense of greater responsibility and respect. In conversation, be sure to listen and allow your child to express his or her own opinions.

Strategies and Tactics to Improve or Continue Good Communication:

- Pick a place where you both feel comfortable.

- Never criticize the other parent in conversation. This includes all body gestures, like the rolling of the eyes or shrugging.

- Stay calm when things get a little heated and avoid quick irrational responses.

- Never use threats or ultimatums.

- Stay on the topic of conversation. If another issue comes up, write it down and discuss it at a later time.

- Look, don’t just listen, for your response. Facial Expressions are as telling as words.

- Do not interrupt your child.

- Do not talk down to your child as if he or she does not understand.

- Avoid saying, “If you were older you would know what I am talking about”, because your child will interpret this as your excuse for being wrong.

Which of the following best describes your type of parenting?

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

ANSWER: I always establish clear expectations for the child and make sure he or she adheres to them. Limited reasoning with the child, he or she more or less knows what is right and wrong to avoid disciplinary action but does not always understand why.

SUGGESTION: It is suggested that you become less of an authoritative parent. This means that you should certainly continue to establish clear expectations, but your child should also have a clear understanding of why you are expecting him or her to behave in a certain manner. “Because” or “I said so” is not a good enough reason. An explanation is essential for your child to grow from his or her mistakes, thus becoming a more mature child.

ANSWER: I try to establish rules for the child, but inconsistencies in the behavior and atmosphere seem to interfere. This makes it very difficult to be stern with the child and deliver much, if any consistent disciplinary action.

SUGGESTION: It is suggested that you become more of an authoritative parent. This means that you should establish clear expectations, but also your child should have a clear understanding of why you are expecting him or her to behave in a certain manner. “Because” or “I said so” is not a good enough reasoning. An explanation is essential for your child to grow from his or her mistakes, thus becoming a more mature child. Your disciplinary actions should also become very consistent. You will want to make sure that you deliver an adequate punishment for bad behavior, getting it to the point, where your child will expect and understand why he or she is being punished.

ANSWER: I establish rules and the child has a clear understanding of why they exist. Disciplinary actions are taken on a consistent basis and most of the time the child expects the punishment and knows why he or she is receiving it.

SUGGESTION: Your parenting style for discipline is probably the most favorable. We would not suggest changing your style, but you should recognize what makes your technique as strong as it is. That is… clear expectations, clear understanding, and consistent punishment.

On the contrary, all parents should always praise their child for good behavior and acknowledge that behavior when ever possible. If there is no positive reinforcement for your child, he or she will not have the incentive to meet or exceed your expectations.

Divorced Parents Taking Similar Disciplinary Actions

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

Your disciplinary methods are probably a little different because it was always more the role of one parent to deliver the punishment than the other. This is not uncommon in a lot of families, but that does not mean it is right. Your child should expect the same actions from you and the other parent.

If you are not sure, you need to discuss with the other parent what the guidelines for discipline are going to be. You and the other parent should always maintain and reinforce the same disciplinary methods. If one parent decides to institute a new rule, it should be discussed with the other parent prior to implementation.

You and the other parent should always try to maintain and reinforce the same disciplinary methods. If one parent decides to institute a new rule, it should be discussed with the other parent prior to implementation. A parenting agreement will often have a section that addresses the disciplinary standards, so each parent is following the same rules for all disciplinary measures.

Parents can run into many difficulties when one parent is delivering a harsher punishment or the contrary, no punishment at all. A child will quickly catch on to one parent being more lenient, and often times that parent will become a scapegoat for the child. The child will say things like, “mom lets me do that at the dinner table”, or “If I were at dads house he would not care if I stayed up and watched a movie”. As you can tell, from the examples mentioned, the child has begun to play one parent against the other. This type of behavior by the child will hurt the parenting relationship. If your child does begin to make comparisons like the examples above, do not jump to any conclusions until you have spoken directly to the other parent. Your child can easily make up a quick story to try to get what he or she wants, so you may find that your child is deceiving you.

Once you do have an agreement about the disciplinary actions, sticking by them will create a sense of trust between you and the other parent. When you share knowledge and experiences about your child, you must tell both good and bad, along with what disciplinary action was or was not implemented.

Building Your Child’s Relationship With the Other Parent

Friday, June 30th, 2006

As a single parent you must understand that due to time and circumstance you have no control over what kind of relationship your child will have with the other parent. You can attempt to influence your child to have a poor relationship, or no relationship at all, with the other parent, but nine times out of ten the child will eventually realize that he or she has been manipulated or persuaded. There are some obvious circumstances that would involve relationship intervention and those would be, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol problems, and mental instability just to name a few. If there is no physical or mental risk, positive reinforcement of any parenting relationship should exist from both parents.

Common issues that cause one parent to not want a child to have a relationship with the other parent.

- Child Support Issues

- Visitation Issues

- Step-family Issues

- Religious Issues

- Educational Issues

- Drug/Alcohol Abuse

- New Relationships

Common emotions that cause one parent to not want a child to have a relationship with the other parent.

- Jealousy - Wants to be the favorite parent.

- Revenge - Using the child to get back at the other parent.

- Insecurity - Afraid to be without the child.

Tips to Help Your Child Open-Up During Divorce

Wednesday, June 14th, 2006

Getting your child to open-up during your divorce can be one of the greatest challenges of all. It does take time and effort, so patience is a must. Here are a few tips to help your child share his or her feelings.

- Create occasions where your child spends one-on-one time with a friend or relative.

- Ask questions about how he or she is feeling. Do not do this out of the blue, but rather during a divorce or separation related conversation.

- Consider meeting with a family counselor on your own.

- Ask your child, “What should I do to make it better?”, or “What could I have done?”. These questions will typically invoke a response that will reveal your child’s feelings or emotions.

- If you have more than one child, try to have a family meeting about the divorce or separation. Try to find out how everyone is doing and see if things are all right. One child’s discussion may spark that of another.

- It is not recommended that you ask your child’s friends if he or she has said anything to them about the divorce and/or separation. This does seem like the easiest solution, but you are risking your child’s trust, which is absolutely invaluable during this difficult time.

- Contact the school guidance counselor for options for support.

- Contact a local church for options for support.

Keeping Up with Your Family Routines During Divorce

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

It is very important for your child to have things remain in tact during the divorce and/or separation. The change in the family structure is enough to be burdened with, so try to make all the little things stay the same, like bedtime stories, movie night, game night, dinner time, visits with relatives, etc.

Take the time to analyze the daily activities of your child and decide which of those are routine and which are not. Once you discover these routine activities, do your best not to interrupt them. Rituals and routines are what make an individual. The loss of routine will lessen your child’s sense of security and can ultimately cause him or her to lose his or her own identity.

Throughout and after the divorce and/or separation, some rituals or routines are difficult, if not impossible to maintain. When you discover this, try to create a new ritual or routine to take its place. Some rituals, like going to the park on the weekend, may not have seemed that important at the time, but when it is taken away, your child will quickly miss it.

For example: if you can not go to the park on the weekends, because you now live in the city, maybe there is a local museum that would accomplish a similar time-sharing experience.

The following is a list of events that are typically considered a family routine or ritual. It is provided to give you a start to reflect on your own family as well as giving you new ideas for replacements.

- Dinner Time

- Bed Time

- Morning Schedule

- Movie Night

- Game Night

- Visits with Friends and/or Relatives

- Sporting Events

- Trips to the Zoo

- Going for Ice Cream

- Going out to Dinner

- Going Fishing

- Walks in the Park

- Bike Rides

- Vacations

- Trip to the Circus