Everyone suffers in a divorce, but it is the children who will be the most profoundly impacted. Of course, divorce is the best course of action when there are fundamental differences between the parents that lead to constant fights and underlying tension. But when matters of custody, property division and support all become difficult in a high-conflict divorce, it can leave emotional scars for everyone involved.
Not only are there emotional consequences of highly contentious divorces for both adults and children, such as anxiety, depression and physical problems, long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can remain for years after the divorce and bleed into future relationships.
Minimizing the effects of a contentious divorce
In order to be able to help the children cope in a high-conflict divorce proceeding, it is essential for the custodial parent to take proactive measures. Depending on the unique dynamics of the family situation, such as if there is a history of domestic violence or irreconcilable differences, as well as the age of the children, can influence the outcome.
Children of divorce are impacted differently at different ages, so it is important to know what to look out for. School-aged children are particularly prone to react with anger, and they may also feel that they are to blame for the divorce. Children who suppress sad and angry emotions may withdraw from social settings and may begin to develop low self-esteem. Grades may slip, and children who watch their parents’ conflicts play out may engage in risky behaviors.
There is a cognitive dissonance that occurs when children are forced into the middle of conflict and feel that they must take sides in order to please one parent or the other. Physical signs can show up during this period or may develop after the divorce is over. Above all, it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your child, and also to help them to understand what is happening so that they can be better prepared.
Younger children often suffer from separation anxiety, and this may cause them to regress temporarily. It can help for them to have consistency, both in schedule and environment. They will also need frequent reassurance, however, and a consistent presence of the custodial parent.
Getting support in a high-conflict divorce
Not only does the immediate family suffer from contentious divorces, often the wider support network of relatives and friends becomes engaged in taking sides, heightening the stress on the children. For California residents, having an experienced team of family law attorneys serving the Manhattan Beach area will help those involved to receive the professional support they need in order to cope both during and after the divorce.