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Divorced parents beware of consequences

Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Every child’s wish is that their parents refrain from hurtful comments and behaviors with each other. Unfortunately these behaviours are rarely avoided through a divorce where ongoing, unresolved, chronic conflict between parents ensue.

If parents do not communicate respectfully with each other, and do not have a good strategy for resolving conflicts, the result is an emotionally charged environment, where ongoing hostilities and disputes continue to erupt in the same patterns, and it has an extremely negative impact on the current and future mental health of their children.

In order to prevent such behaviors, co-parents in a post-divorce family must develop a willingness to maintain financial responsibilities, continue contact with their ex-spouse, support contact of their children with the other parent and his/her family.

In order for the children to adjust to the new parenting arrangements with minimum disruption, and no long-term psychological damage, four major elements apply: it necessitates that parents ensure that the children’s basic economic, and psychological needs are met, that the children maintain all familial relationships that were important and meaningful in their lives before the divorce, including parents, in-laws, grandparents on both sides, aunts, uncles, cousins, pets, etc. and a commitment by both parents to a relationship that is generally supportive and cooperative – ideally – with a custody agreement that includes free access to both parents.

This requires that divorced parents restructure their lives, in ways that allow children to continue to develop and grow their relationships with both of them. Listing problems, weighing alternatives, and setting ground rules are the difficult, complex but absolutely necessary tasks.

Application of family systems theory provides the opportunity to heal and grow, reframing divorce as a cooperative effort to mobilize resilience and hope, relearn how to be effective in the world, and foster communion with others.

While few former spouses can remain perfect pals, many others take the time and effort, and are able to save themselves, and shield their children from the devastation of a bitter divorce. When you form a parenting partnership after divorce, your kids will recognize that they are more important than the conflict that ended the marriage, and understand that your love for them will prevail despite the changing circumstances.

Kids whose divorced parents have a cooperative relationship:

• Feel secure. When confident of the love of both parents, kids adjust more quickly and easily to divorce and have better self-esteem.
• Benefit from consistency. Friendly co-parenting fosters similar rules, discipline, and rewards between households, so children know what to expect, and what’s expected of them.
• Better understand problem solving. Children who see their parents continuing to work together are more likely to learn how to effectively and peacefully solve problems their own problems.
• Have a healthy example to follow. By cooperating with the other parent, you are establishing a life pattern your children can carry into the future.

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