The Danger of Continuing Conflict

Studies completed by Dr. Joanne Rocklin, who works with divorcing couples, clearly show that whether the family is divorced or intact, continued parental conflict is the most harmful aspect to children of any age.

Children whose parents frequently argue in front of them often are less socially competent than their peers and get lower grades in school.

Too often divorcing parents mistakenly expect conflict to disappear once they separate. In reality, fighting and anger often increase at this time, affecting children negatively and adding to the stress they feel.

Keep in mind that the less conflict a child experiences, the better a child is able to adjust; the more conflict, the more difficult adjustment a child experiences. Children whose parents divorce and continue fighting, are, in effect, hit with a double whammy.

Psychologist Rex Forehand at the University of Georgia feels that divorce is a plausible option if it leads to less parental fighting. One side-effect he has noted is that children unknowingly pick up their parents’ patterns of conflict, often learning to handle problem situations through verbal or physical aggression.

Nurturing children well during a divorce is not easy. Your own loss and pain can overwhelm you at times. Yet, a positive restructuring of family life after divorce can result in satisfying new relationships, with all family members learning better emotional tools for coping with the future. And freed from the tensions of a difficult marriage, divorced parents often do a better job of parenting than they did while married.

Keep in mind the words of Mel Krantzler, leading divorce psychologist, in his best-selling book, Creative Divorce (Bantam, 1974).

“Children are resilient. Short of actual neglect and physical abuse, children can survive any family crisis without permanent damage-and can grow as human beings in the process-if they can sense some continuity and loving involvement on the part of their parents.”

Ending a marriage is not easy. Divorce may be commonplace today, but it is still difficult.

Excerpted from : Vicki Lansky’s Divorce Book for Parents

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