• Alan Jacobs

The Child-Parent Relationship After High-Conflict Divorce

For some parents, divorce is the only way they can see out of a marriage filled with bitter battles, resentment, blame, and perhaps even active dislike. For them, divorce is a necessary evil that will give them a chance to create a happier life – and perhaps a second chance at finding love. But what does that mean for the child-parent relationship after high-conflict divorce?


Well, life is not that simple, especially when you have a child from the marriage. It is not easy for a kid to cope with the separation of his parents while he is growing up. Since children have an impressionable mind, a painful event like his parents’ high-conflict divorce can leave permanent emotional scars.


High-conflict divorces have a significant impact on a child’s academic performance, his emotional state, his health and even his behavior. A child who has lived through his parents’ difficult divorce is more likely to suffer from poor health, receive poor grades in his class and encounter suicidal thoughts more than children whose parents are happily married.


In this excellent blog posting, Ava Smith writes about 3 issues that may arise in the child-parent relationship after a high-conflict divorce.


  1. Children grow more distant from their parents after divorce.

  2. Children lose respect for their parents.

  3. Children lose respect for marriage.

A bitter divorce affects the psyche of a child, so parents should consider taking their children to therapy during and after the divorce. Therapy is a safe space for children to express their thoughts and feelings and ask questions without fear of hurting or angering their parents. A therapist can also alert parents if he/she believes the child poses a danger to himself or others.


One cannot deny the fact that divorce does affect the dynamics of the parent-child relationship to a great extent. People often believe that getting a divorce after the kids are grown up may have less impact on the child, but studies show that adult children struggled to cope with the divorce of their parents even when they are in their late 20s.


If divorcing parents are really concerned about their children’s welfare, they should meet with a parenting expert to help create a plan that is best for the kids and works for the parents – who may need to develop co-parenting skills to separate their feelings about their ex-spouse with their role as co-parents.


The bottom line is that kids need both parents in their lives in order to grow into emotionally healthy adults. There are some roles that suit the father, and there are some things that mother can handle better. If a kid does not have his father around when he needs assignment help for a school project, it may not seem like a big deal. But for the kid, small things can be as damaging as some of the more obvious mistakes divorced parents make while trying to hurt their ex-spouse.

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