In my experience working with families, parents have great concern and compassion for the impact of their divorce on their children. However, sometimes conflict is so intense that it’s difficult for parents to differentiate between their experience and the needs of their kids. Protecting children from emotional turmoil is essential and extremely important. The following tips will help parents support and protect their children from divorce conflict.
- Share Feelings. Encourage children to share their thoughts and experiences, and let them know it’s safe to do so. Ongoing openness is important as their feelings or thoughts may change as they mature. As a parent, it’s vitally important to separate your thoughts, feelings, and opinions from your child’s. Be prepared to listen and answer questions without judgment or criticism and be open to their feedback.
- Don’t Badmouth. Do not talk badly of the other parent or try to explain their behavior. Be honest when asked for the facts, remembering to be sensitive to your child’s level of maturity. If it is too difficult for you to talk objectively, then just listen. Seek a third-party support for your child if a situation is too high-conflict.
- Don’t Pressure. Children should not be pressured to take sides or be put in the middle of two parents. Support your child by allowing them to frequently communicate with the other parent and have private conversations (in situations where safety is not an issue) informative post. Do not ask your children about your ex-spouse or have them relay messages. Even seemingly innocent questions can feel pressuring to kids. Do not make them feel guilty for enjoying time with their other parent.
These are just a few suggestions for reducing family conflict in a divorce. Seek help and support from a licensed, qualified therapist if needed– you and your children deserve it!
Amy Cluff, LCSW is in private practice in St. George, Utah. Supporting families through divorce is one of her specialties.