The Post-Divorce-Parenting Glossary

Divorced-Parenting Term

High-Conflict Parenting


   What is high-conflict parenting during or after a divorce?

   High conflict parenting refers to an intense level of tension and stress that exists between divorced or separated parents.  High conflict parenting is commonplace in divorced or separated parenting relationships, and it can interfere in joint custody arrangements and reduce the ability to engage in high-quality parenting.


   Are arguments in front of the children ever okay?

   The problems with arguing in front of the children are that it puts them in the of middle of the conflict and teaches them that arguing and yelling are appropriate ways to handle conflict. 

   It is normal for two parents who split to experience differences in ideas and opinions  concerning their children, but when higher-than-normal conflict exists, the communication from the disagreement typically becomes toxic.  The anger between the parents typically is felt as stress by the children, and likely affects them in ways the parents may not be aware of.
   Most parents who cannot get past the need to argue in front of the children attempt to rationalize that it is okay because the child needs to "see what the other parent is doing".  This is a bad idea that will likely backfire.  It could lead children to be drawn to the parent that doesn't start the arguments or to reject both parents altogether.  It can also lead to both parents engaging in parental alienation.
   Parents who truly embrace the idea of putting their children first will find ways of resolving conflict or circumventing it without having to argue, especially in front of the children.


   What are negative effects of divorce with high-conflict parenting?

   Some of the effects of high-conflict parenting in a divorce are:

  •        Children find that they are in the middle of the conflict.
  •        They do not feel like they can simply enjoy a relationship with either parent.
  •        Children feel like parents want them to choose sides.
  •        A child is much more likely to suffer from parental alienation syndrome.
  •        A child finds he or she is being asked to relay messages to one parent to the other.
  •        Children repress emotions and experience abnormally high levels of stress, which affects the child's social life, schooling, and health.
  •        Children learn improper ways to handle conflict in their own lives, and this affects their own relationships wit friends, and increases their likelihood of experiencing the same difficulties with their future partners.
  •        High conflict parenting may make the children feel guilty, as if they are the cause of the problems.  This can make them feel like they have the ability to fix it, which increases their stress.

   Angry confrontations and open disagreements can significantly impact the healthy upbringing of a child.  It is a good idea for divorced parents to accept something that psychologists that specialize in divorced parenting refer to as the children's bill of rights.


   How do I stop a situation where high-conflict parenting currently exists?

   Acknowledging that you cannot have a dialog with the other parent without arguing is a big first step.  It is also important to understand what the triggers are.  Is it a lot of emotional baggage left behind because of what led to the divorce or separation?  Is it that you do not agree with how the other parent is parenting the children.
   Next, it is important to avoid triggers.  It is up to the parents to find ways of resolving the issues in the best interest of the child.
   If two parents are experiencing high-conflict parenting, it is critical to the well-being of the children that the parents find better ways to communicate without having it trigger arguments.  Counseling may be necessary if the parents are unable to move past the conflict on their own.


   Can I engage in co-parenting if I have a high conflict parenting situation?

   If you and your child's other parent cannot talk with arguing, co-parenting is unfeasible, and not recommended.  Co-parenting means that both parents have enough respect for each other that they can talk openly, disagree without conflict, and come to the best decision about parenting matters as a team.  If divorced parents in high conflict attempt to co-parent, it will likely only lead to more arguing.
   There is another option for divorced parents who cannot get along, but still want to do what is in the best interest of their children.  It is called parellel parenting.  Parallel parenting is essentially a dulled-down form of co-parenting that minimizes contact between parents and sets rules.  Parallel parenting lets each parent set their own rules when it is their parenting time, and the parent who does not have the children at that time will not interfere with the decisions made by the parent with the children.
   In a sense, parallel parenting means that you must agree to disagree.  While you may not respect the other other parent, you do respect the other parent's relationship with your child.
   It should also be noted that parallel parenting can evolve into a co-parenting relationship after the conflict subsides over time.  You might despise your ex now, but a year or so later, the anger you both feel may be forgotten and the possibility of co-parenting may open up.


What is parallel parenting?
Parallel parenting can help stop arguing and let parents be better parents to their children.
Is it okay to argue in front of children?
Find out why it is not okay, and learn alternatives to help avoid arguing in front of your children.
Co-parenting and high conflict
Learn how to approach high-conflict situations with a divorced partner.

high conflict, effects, psychological effect, divorce conflict

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