How Parents Can Protect Kids During A Messy Divorce: Expert Advice

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It’s crucial to protect kids during a messy divorce, as it can negatively impact kids. Learn some proactive steps to mitigate the damage by experts.

High-conflict divorces, characterized by prolonged legal battles and intense animosity between spouses, can have severe repercussions on children’s well-being.

How To Protect Kids During A Messy Divorce?

These high-conflict divorces, constituting approximately 10% to 20% of all divorce cases, involve relentless battles, intimidation, threats, baseless claims, and the use of children as pawns.

The exact traits that define high-conflict divorces may vary, making it challenging to categorically define them. It’s essential to distinguish them from cases of domestic or post-separation abuse, which manifest in various forms beyond physical harm.

The impact on children in high-conflict divorces is profound, affecting their mental health, academic performance, relationships, and self-esteem, according to clinical psychologist Christina Iglesia. Children in such situations may exhibit various symptoms, including behavioral issues, physical ailments, and emotional distress, which can persist for an extended period.

To mitigate the adverse effects on children, experts recommend that parents begin by examining their own behavior. They should avoid using their children as messengers between them and refrain from speaking negatively about the other parent within earshot of the children. Conflict resolution and co-parenting education are mandated in 46 states to promote healthier relationships between divorced parents.

Crucially, parents must provide a safe space for their children to express their feelings without judgment and offer love and reassurance. Sharing one’s side of the story with the children, fueled by the desire to protect oneself or apportion blame, should be avoided, as it exacerbates the negative impact on children. Unity and support between parents in front of their children are essential.

In cases where children consistently display signs of stress, seeking therapy with a skilled counselor can be immensely beneficial. Parents should also consider therapy, either individually or as a family, if their efforts to minimize conflict prove unsuccessful.

While divorce, especially messy ones, can be challenging for children, Glenda Lux, a psychologist specializing in co-parenting, notes that children can bounce back if conflicts are short-lived and contained to the initial turmoil. Melissa Santos, division chief of pediatric psychology at Connecticut Children’s, emphasizes that children ultimately fare better when parents divorce instead of staying in a conflict-ridden relationship.

In conclusion, during a messy divorce, the primary focus should be on prioritizing the well-being of the children over personal disputes. Parents should strive to be the best parents they can be, fostering an environment where their children can thrive despite the challenging circumstances.


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