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Children faced with conflict

Many couples, married or not, separate each year. Often, children are affected by such a decision. Separation not only changes the lives of parents, it also disrupts the habits of children who are forced to relocate or suffer the departure of one of the parents. Separation often triggers a crisis or at least a feeling of uncertainty. It is in the best interest of children that parents quickly find a reasonable agreement on the care and education of their children to enable them to maintain a serene and close relationship with both parents.

In reality, things are often not so simple. It is common after a separation that parents take certain steps and react contrary to ensuring the well being of their children. The inability to distinguish between parental and marital relationship, often leads to a failure to agree on issues concerning their children. Therefore they:

  • prevent contact with the other parent
  • argue and insult
  • enter into a court procedure
  • threaten each other, seek to intimidate and control the other parent
  • are aggressive, even violent.

Children often find themselves helpless in the face of such behavior and the effects can be disastrous. Psychological problems, behavioral problems, difficulties in school are to name only some of the issues encountered. The more the conflict persists, the greater the risk that the separation of parents permanently threatens the healthy development of children with persistent effects sometimes into adulthood.

What parents can do

Parents can take into account the needs and interests of their children with advice and assistance from professionals. Such an approach can help to :

  • be aware that children continue to love both parents, despite the parental conflict
  • differentiate the marital relationship from that of parenting
  • leave children out of their conflicts (and avoid actions, for example, of giving messages to the other parent through the children)
  • encourage contact between the child and the other parent and to make him understand that he should not feel guilty for it
  • not ask their children to take sides
  • help children understand that they should not feel responsible for the needs of their parents

In a word: to continue to be a reliable reference figure for their children.