“The most profound finding of divorce in the past four decades is that parent’s conflict is more important than divorce per se in predicting how well children function. In fact, children whose parents have a lot of conflict and stay married, those are the children who actually have the most difficulty psychologically. They have the most difficulty in having a satisfying relationship later in life.” –Tamara Afifi, Professor in the Department of Communication at UCSB
I appreciate my friend Rosalind Sedacca bringing this recent “study” to my attention. It’s always interesting to me that we need a “study” to tell us what should be well known. Since I started out as a divorce attorney in the 80’s (yes it’s been that long!), I have always said:
“It’s not the divorce that screws up children, but the continual fighting of the parents.”
Children need to feel safe and they need consistency. Living with parents who are more insistent on getting back at the other parent, or who do not deal with their own needs during divorce or after divorce, are really harming their own children.
For me personally, my own parents fought every single weekend when my dad came to pick us up for visitation. Then, my sister and I would act out and make everyone’s life miserable. There was no real safety nor consistency. There was no honoring the other parent’s role as a parent, and there was no way for us to vent how we felt, other than misbehaving.
I believe this is ultimately why I became a divorce attorney, then divorce mediator, then divorce coach – to teach parents how to NOT screw up their children.
If you are a parent going through a divorce, or you have been divorce, what is the number 1 thing you can do to help your children? Deal with your own woundedness, do your own personal work, let go of retaliation, hurt, anger, frustration and really step into forgiveness.
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How we treat our children, the legacy we pass down as divorced parents, is paramount to their future psychological and emotional health and well being. Give your children a head start by forgiving your ex.