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The Kids are Not Alright: the importance of shielding your children from conflict during your divorce

Research suggest that, for children of separation or divorce, what is most damaging is not the separation itself, but, rather, the experience of their parents fighting. It may be easy for you to turn to your children during conflict. Sometimes it may feel good to confide in them, lean on them for support, and seek comfort from them. Research suggests that seeking this kind of solace, however, comes at a steep price for your children. Colorado has gone so far as to add a comment to the rules of professional conduct advising that Family Law Attorneys should advise their clients as to the potential impact of exposing children to conflict.

Children who are caught in the middle of their parents’ conflicts or divorce run the risk of suffering negative long-term consequences, compared to adults children whose parents ensured that they were not exposed to conflict as a young child. Research suggest that children whose parents treated one another with hostility in front them tend to have more emotional and behavioral problems that can impact their lives well into adulthood.

Research shows that, when parents continue to engage in conflict around their children, children may experience feelings such as depression, anger, hopelessness, and fear. As children grow, these feelings may lead to behavioral problems, such as poor grades in school, problems with law enforcement, and drug abuse. It can also lead to emotional problems such as, depression, eating disorders, and other mental health issues.

It is important to protect your children from conflict. The following are some ways to ensure that your children are not unnecessarily exposed to situations that may cause them harm:

1. Speak only positively about your ex.
Remember that your children only have two parents, and having a relationship with both of you is important to them. Dealing with an ex can be difficult, but speaking negatively about your ex in front of your children can damage their relationship with you and your ex in the end.

2. Discuss issues when your children are not around.
Children are very perceptive and even if they cannot hear exactly what you may be saying, they are aware that you are fighting. While the fighting may not be directly in front of your children it can still cause them to have anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and fear of what may happen next in your relationship and their relationship with you.

3. Do not seek information from your children about the other parent.
Children usually blame themselves when you put them in the middle of your issues. You should not bring them into issues they do not fully understand and cause them to panic. If you have issues that you need to discuss or questions that need to be answered, work directly with that other parent or with your attorney.

4. Remind your children that the separation is not their fault.
It is very important to ensure your children understand that your separation was not their fault. You should always remind them that bot of you love them and they should not worry about your adult problems. Your children should understand that the issues between their parents is not because of them.

Your relationship with your co-parent has ended for one reason or another. However, that does not mean that either of your relationships with your children has to change. During a separation or divorce it is important to find positive ways to nurture and support your children. As your children grow they will be grateful that the conflict was handled in a mature way and that they were allowed to be children.
At GEM Family Law, our seasoned attorneys can help guide you through your separation or divorce and find options that best suits your children’s needs and that seeks to protect them from exposure to parental conflict. Call 303-317-3239 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

Authored by: Kristin Day Weaver, J.D. Candidate 2019