It is on your mind if you have kids and are in a family conflict; you are wondering how it is going to affect your children. Whether you have an infant, toddlers, or teenagers, no matter how hard you try, your children are going to be affected by what is going on. You want to know what you can do to make sure that there is as little negative impact on your children as possible, right?
The most important thing you need to know is that conflict between parents has a far more negative long term effect on children than anything, including living in two homes. Yes, that’s right: staying together for the sake of the kids often is far more harmful to children than the alternative. No, separation and divorce should not be entered into lightly, and children will be impacted by the decision, no matter how amicable the separation is. Still, conflict is the villain, and your job as a parent is to protect your children from the villain.
But, you say, “I am not the one starting the fights”. Whether or not you are responsible for creating the problem, you can be the key to the solution if you focus on creating a collaborative and civil working relationship with your ex, rather than being “right” and “winning”. I hear you scoffing at the notion of a civil relationship with your ex and I am not telling you that it will be easy. Nevertheless, once you are clear about the risks to children from exposure to conflict, you will be in a position to make reducing conflict a priority.
There are great resources to help you with this, including books, counselors, parenting coaches, and mediators. Please check out our Resources page for a few of our favorites. One important thing you can do to lay the foundation for the kind of cooperative relationship with your ex that the children need is to reach co-parenting agreements through mediation instead of litigation. It is all about establishing patterns of interaction. In litigation, the goal is “winning” and attacking your ex can be a means to an end. This pattern often continues long after the attorneys have moved on to the next case. When this happens, children can pay the price. Instead, if you reach agreements through mediation, the interaction involves respectful communication and compromise, with thoughtful and creative attention to how decisions will affect children. This is a different pattern and, when it continues long after the case is resolved, not only are the lives of your children better, but your life is better too.