People have disagreements during a relationship so it is likely when a relationship breaks down there will continue to be disagreements between parents, particularly when they are navigating their new co-parenting relationship.
Children are at a greater risk of developing emotional, social and behavioural problems when there are frequently high levels of conflict and hostility between their parents. They are also more likely to have difficulties with their education and forming secure attachments in relationships.
Children are most negatively affected in a separation by how the parents conduct themselves in the separation and particularly, the level of conflict between the parents.
You should not involve your children in adult issues and discussions. One of the most damaging ways that children are involved in the conflict is when they are placed in the middle of a dispute between the parents. Children placed in such a position often express through Family Reports their struggle with being in a difficult position of wanting to remain loyal to both parents and not wanting to upset either of their parents when communicating their wishes.
Some high conflict behaviours which are detrimental to children are:
- Asking children to carry messages to the other parent
- Questioning children about the life/household of the other parent
- Degrading or speaking negatively about the other parent in the presence of the children
- Asking children to hide information from the other parent
- Making the children feel they should hide positive emotions for the other parent/their household.
It is often important to reassure children that the separation is not the child’s fault and that both of their parents love and support them. When discussing the separation with your children you should listen to their concerns and consider whether they may need some additional support themselves. This could be provided through your child’s school counsellor or a private counsellor.
Wherever children are involved in a separation, parents should consider their children’s needs and how the children are being impacted by the dispute as a priority. There are many services and courses available for parents which can help equip you with the knowledge you need to ensure you can provide a supportive home with your child needs.