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Disagreement over children – the effects

Disagreement continuing over children – the effects

Children are very sensitive to conflict between their parents. While disagreement is normal in any family, a continuation of conflict makes life very difficult for children. In fact, research shows that this is one of the critical factors affecting children’s adjustment after separation or divorce.

It is hard for children to enjoy both parents when they continue fighting after they have separated, particularly if they put the children in the middle of the conflict. Eventually, because of the stress this causes them, children may become anxious or distressed before and after staying with or visiting the other parent, or they may start having problems at school.

Children’s development can be seriously hampered by exposure to hostility and violence. Overhearing or witnessing intense conflict is harmful and places them at risk of long-term emotional and behavioural problems.

How parents can make things difficult for children following separation

When children are growing up their parents, or in some cultures members of their extended family, are the most important and powerful people in their lives. It is very easy after separation for these adults to sometimes misuse their power because they feel so hurt and angry about what has happened.

Most parents sincerely love and care about their children. But in times of intense conflict in a relationship children can become weapons against the other parent. Unfortunately, these parents do not realise the harm this is doing to their children.

Sometimes parents may be quite unaware of the more subtle things they do which affect the way their children feel about each of them. These things include putting the children in a position where they feel they have to protect their parents from hurt or choose between the people they love most.

Sometimes, instead of providing support for their children, parents expect their children to look after them and keep them happy rather than the other way round.

Separation and divorce can be extremely traumatic for children – they can see the dramatic changes in their world as a loss of care and stability.

For children up to five years old, family breakdown can be difficult to understand and the child is especially vulnerable at this age.

Older children can experience a time of confusion and uncertainty even though they are more able to understand what is happening to the family.


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