Let’s face it: conflict exists everywhere. We can’t escape it in our personal or professional lives, and each day’s news headlines blare the details of of tragedies stemming from our inability to see eye-to-eye. Despite its almost universally bad rap, though, conflict isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Conflict helps us to more deeply understand ourselves and each other, identify and motivate to change circumstances that are causing stress and disease, and – in the best case scenario – conflict brings us closer together. When parties to a dispute are honest about how they feel and work together to overcome it, they can find themselves in a better place both as individuals and as a team.
But, conflict is a double-edged sword, and the way that parents going through a divorce handle their disputes can have enormous and l0ng-lasting negative effects on their children. Most parents love their children deeply and are heavily invested in their children’s well-being, but are so (understandably) troubled by the divorce process that they unwittingly do things that draw their kids into the parental conflict and/or cause their kids unnecessary grief (in addition to the grief that kids unavoidably experience when a family transitions into two households).
I encourage parents to think carefully about how each step they take, each word they speak, and each gesture they make affects their children. There are also a lot of great classes available to help parents learn how to minimize the negative effects of parental conflict on their children as well as how to support their kids through the divorce process. Being mindful of your children’s experience is the first step towards helping them survive, learn, and grow as they work through their own feelings about your divorce.