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Skipper L Harvey, PsyD
October 17, 2013

Divorce and Children

In today’s world it comes as no surprise that each year thousands of children will experience the impact of divorce. However, contrary to popular belief, research suggests that it is not divorce in itself that is most harmful to children. In fact, it is actually the conflict between divorcing parents that can often cause the most damage. In many divorce relationships ex-spouses find that it is almost impossible to stop making insulting comments about the other parent, raising their voice in anger, or reacting with physical aggression. It’s important to realize that when these situations occur in front of your child you are forcing your child to become a part of the situation.

Divorce looks different through the eyes of a child. Many times they may feel guilty trapped by the mistaken belief that they somehow caused the divorce or may feel that they could have prevented the situation by being “better” kids. Now consider what parents usually argue about: the kids. Arguments are typically in regard to visitation, child support, vacations, holidays, etc. It’s no wonder that children in a divorce situation may not only feel they are the cause but that they are also the reason their parents continue to fight. That’s a pretty big burden to continually carry on one’s shoulders. Parental conflict sends children messages about love, marriage, relationships, and speaks volumes to them about who they are. To a child’s ears any comment about his parent, positive or negative, is a judgment of him.

Seven Tips To Help Your Child Cope

Tip #1 - Allow your child to be free from conflicts you have with the other parent and do not put your child in the middle or play them against the other parent. These are adult problems, not child problems.

Tip #2 - Your child needs to have the right to develop a relationship with both parents.

Tip #3 - It is important for your child to be able to spend time with both parents without interference. This should not be dependent on how much money one parent has paid the other.

Tip #4 - Remember, your child did not choose to go through a divorce. They did not choose to have their biological parents live in two different homes, move away, date different people, and in general turn their world upside-down. They deserve the help, love, and support of both parents to work through their own issues related to the changes they are forced to endure.

Tip #5 - Children should not be put in the position of being a spy when they are with the other parent or should they be forced to play the role of messenger because their parents do not want to interact with one another. Mediators should be used in situations where it is just impossible to communicate with your ex-spouse, not children.

Tip #6 - Your child has the right to be more than just a child of divorce. They have the right to be a child whose parents love them more than they hate each other.

Tip #7 - Never miss an opportunity to tell your child you love them because during this time they will question it often.

Divorce is painful for children in ways that parents may not initially realize. While we do not have the power to take back yesterday, we do have the power to change today and tomorrow. Whether you’ve just separated or have been divorced for a substantial period of time, it is never too late to reduce or eliminate conflict in the relationship. As a parenting adult, when problems arise (and they will) view them as opportunities to model positive qualities and behaviors. This will help your child draw accurate and healthy conclusions about relationships, conflict, and resolution from the actions they have witnessed between the two people they love.


About Dr. Skipper
Dr. Skipper is a Florida Licensed Clinical Psychologist who works extensively with children, adolescents, and families to provide therapy and psychoeducational assessment services.

She received her doctorate degree from the Florida School of Professional Psychology.  Dr. Skipper has worked with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of settings which include mental health clinics, residential settings, drug treatment facilities, and schools.

Through the integration of a variety of empirically-based treatment approaches, Dr. Skipper assists her clients by providing new skills and empowering strategies to build distress tolerance, enhance awareness and communication, facilitate insight, and challenge maladaptive relationship and thinking patterns. She employs an active therapeutic stance to facilitate long-lasting, positive change. 

Dr. Skipper’s background also includes a B.A. in Elementary Education with 11 years of experience in primary education. 


Disclaimer: The above information is not intended to provide professional advice or diagnostic service. If you have any concerns about divorce and children or other health issues, please consult a qualified health care professional in your community.