Divorce is associated with diminished psychological well-being in children and adult offspring of divorced parents, including greater unhappiness, less satisfaction with life, weaker sense of personal control, anxiety, depression, and greater use of mental health services. A preponderance of evidence indicates that there is a causal effect between divorce and these outcomes. Divorce can be a stressful experience: affecting finances, living arrangements, household jobs, schedules, parenting and the outcomes of children of the marriage as they face each stage of development from childhood to adulthood. If the family includes children, they may be deeply affected.
Children often experience conflict in their own marriages, and are more likely to experience divorce themselves. They are also more likely to be involved in short-term cohabiting relationships, which often dissolve before marriage.
There is nothing worse, for most children, than for their parents to denigrate each other. Parents simply do not realize the damage they do to their children by the battles they wage over them. Separating parents rarely behave reasonably, although they always believe that they are doing so, and that the other party is behaving unreasonably.”
Although not the intention of most parents, putting children in the middle of conflict is particularly detrimental. Examples of this are asking children to carry messages between parents, grilling children about the other parent’s activities, and putting the other parent down in front of the children. High-conflict divorce or custody cases can experience varying forms of parental alienation. The Family Courts often consider parental alienation as a form of child abuse. Specific examples of parental alienation include brainwashing the child to cease their relationship with the other parent, telling the child that the other parent does not love them, teaching the child to call another adult by a parental name in effort to replace the other parent, limiting communication between the child and the other parent, and limiting quality time between the child and the other parent. If evidence reveals that a parent is actively alienating the child from their other parent, their case for custody can be severely damaged.
Poorly managed conflict between parents increases children’s risk of behaviour problems, depression, substance abuse and dependence, poor social skills, and poor academic performance. Fortunately, there are approaches by which divorce professionals can help parents reduce conflict. Options include mediation, collaborative divorce, co-parent counselling, and parenting coordination.
For further information please watch the video about Family Counselling concerning this topic.