Marsha Ferrick, PhD, BCC
“It started with a war between a few
Converted into a war
But who suffered?
The one who was innocent”
Unknown author

Have you ever lived in a war zone? How about a city that has constant air raids and bombs dropping from the air? Most of us have been blessed enough to not have lived in these types of circumstances but some of us have lived in homes where conflict is the norm.

Are you a parent that has a high conflict divorce? Are you concerned about the impact on your children? Good, you need to be. Your children are trapped in a minefield between enemy lines. Every step in any direction is a risk. The wrong word, smile, or acknowledgement to one parent could bring disappointment, sadness, or even wrath from the other parent. It is a dilemma most of us as adults do not want to be in, yet this is the case for your children.

Yes, high conflict divorces impact children.

How? That depends on the child.

The research on divorce in general shows mixed results concerning outcomes for children, but the research does agree that high conflict divorce will have a negative impact on your children’s emotional health, and most likely on their ability to have good quality long-term relationships.

What goes wrong?

Priorities.

Parents focus on the wrong priority. They lead with their emotions, out of their own hurt and frustration, and forget that their children are not a weapon to be used against the other parent. They forget that the children are 50% the DNA of the other parent. The contempt the parent has for other gets take on by the children as if it is their own. The children then feel as if they cannot please either parent. How could they?

I find that high conflict parents are focused on the wrong priorities. They make a decision based on emotion, getting even, or showing the other parent what it feels like instead of thinking about what is best for the child. Every past injury, mistake, or event becomes a weapon to use in the present moment. There is no forgetting and no forgiveness.

In the end, it costs the parents, and their children devasting amounts of resources, time, energy, and money. It leaves children doubtful about their own worth, and the value of their own needs. It leaves them fearful of relationships. How could people that supposedly once loved each other now hate each other so vehemently? The children are torn in two most often they love both parents and feel forced to choose one over the other, and often they covertly or overtly are asked to do just that.

Children need both parents even if they are flawed.

Family relations concept image - mother meets her little son

Parents need to do what is best for their children, and that might mean not getting what they want. So this is the journey, the hard part. Growing up and putting the children first. By becoming good co-parents. By creating a different kind of family that is better for the children.

How is that possible?

Get help.

See a therapist, find a coach. Ask the court to order co-parenting sessions for you and your ex-partner so that you can do what needs to be done for your children.