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How Fighting Between Divorced Parents Affects Children

by Tiffany Raiford

You might think a divorce will rid you of the conflict and arguing that plagues your life, but it doesn’t always work out quite so well. Even after a divorce, you might still argue with your ex, and just because your fights don’t always occur in front of the kids anymore doesn’t mean they don’t know you’re fighting. Your moods, friction and forced politeness toward one another are tell-tale signs of conflict that may affect your children's development, behavior and relationships.

Lower Confidence

Your post-divorce fighting can negatively affect your child’s confidence level, according to the University of New Hampshire’s Family and Consumer Resources program. For example, if you fight constantly while dropping your child off with the other parent, you may damage his sense of self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem. This could cause him to withdraw from positive situations because he doesn't feel worthy.

Emotional Insecurity

If you are divorced and continue to fight with your ex, you are putting your child at greater risk for emotional insecurity, according to the American Psychological Association. Unresolved, continued conflict makes your child feel insecure, scared and distressed. You can help greatly reduce these feelings when you find a way to resolve conflict with your ex and live separate lives. Use compromise and respect when discussing your differences, whether over custody issues or childrearing decisions.

Poor School Performance

Monitor your child’s academic progress before, during and after divorce, advises Jay Reeve, an assistant professor of psychology at Florida State University. Divorce and the fighting associated with it can cause your child’s attention span to suffer, leading to poor performance at school. When you divorce, the simple fact is that changing your child’s entire world is enough to cause her to perform poorly in the classroom, regardless of conflict. Put aside your differences and focus on helping her excel in school again.

Rocky Relationships

If your child sees you fighting with her other parent on a regular basis, she may experience problems in her own personal relationships, according to child development website KidsHealth. Seeing your anger and hostility can make it difficult for her to maintain healthy relationships with just about everyone in her life as she grows up, including significant others. Your fighting may cause her to have trust issues or be incapable of dealing with conflict in a healthy manner.

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