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of Low-Conflict Parents and Kids
thinking has is that only high-conflict divorces impact negatively on children.
This is far from the truth. Divorce between parents of low-conflict impacts on
children too. For these children, the issue may be likened to having the rug
pulled from beneath them. Because the conflict was limited, they never
considered that their parents might divorce. Hence when they do, it is
experienced as a tremendous shock.
couples with low amounts of conflict are more at risk of divorce than others.
They include those with fewer ties to their community, lower religious
affiliation or participation and emotional distance from their own families of
origin. It is as if these couples have fewer ties outside of themselves to hold
or bind them together. It may also be that for the children of these parents,
that while they may have friends, they too may have less community and extended
family affiliation. Thus without traditional supports outside of the couple to
hold them together, risk of divorce is greater. Once divorced, there may be
fewer supports separate from the parents to help the kids adjust and cope.
of divorce whose parents were low-conflict, report having a more difficult time
trusting or believing not only others, but their own judgment with regard to
relationships. They say they “Didn’t see it coming”, or, “If my parents
seemed to get along and they divorced, what does that mean for me and the
success of my marriage?”
these children age, form intimate relationships themselves and eventually marry,
they are at risk of perceiving their marriage to be threatened, even when faced
with innocuous events. In view of their trepidation, they can actually bring
harm to the marriage as their partner copes with what appears to be an
irrational fear or issue. The partner may not fully understand or appreciate how
unsettling and undermining of trust the divorce was in view of low-parental
conflict. To make matters worse, the partner may enjoy a good relationship with
the divorced in-laws and thus may be quite out of touch with their partner’s
issues of fear and trepidation.
with low-conflict who are considering divorce are well advised to prepare their
children if this is the path chosen. This will require time and patience to
allow the children the opportunity to process the information and come to
understand the marital dissatisfaction that may have otherwise been hidden. The
goal is not to invite or overwhelm the children with the marital issues, but
simply to make them aware that they exist and as such, the parents are unable to
continue as husband and wife.
is quite likely that the children will react negatively. There will be shock and
disbelief. Some may act out their feelings aggressively while others may
internalize them, appearing quiet, sullen withdrawn or depressed. Family
counselling to facilitate the adjustment can be helpful. The goal of family
counselling is to allow family members a chance to express their upset in a safe
and controlled space and then help members address concerns arising with the
view to facilitating transition to separated parents.
even contemplating separation or divorce, parents are well advised to seek
marital counselling particularly before the kids become privy to their distress.
Counselling may actually address the issues undermining the marriage or
alternately provide the parents an opportunity to plan their transition in view
of the needs of their children.
to put in the extra step of marital counselling before pulling the rug out from
beneath the kids.
Check out the Parenting Plan Worksheet
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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