How to Limit the Negative Effects of Divorce and Family Conflict on Your Child.

by Jody Sargent LCSW, MSW, LVRC, CRC

Effects of Divorce and Family Conflict on Children

Divorce and other family conflicts can have devasting, lifelong effects on the children that experience them. Divorce is an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE). ACEs can create trauma. Divorce trauma can have lasting effects on a child’s developing brain, but they don’t have to. With the proper support and training, families can resolve conflict and limit the amount of trauma a child experiences.

Understanding the Trauma of High Conflict

Understanding trauma and exposure to long-term, high-conflict divorce can create difficulty in multiple areas of a child’s life. Watching mom and dad continue a dysfunctional relationship, and experiencing intense emotions, helplessness, and confusion can often be observed in a child’s learning and relational attachment development.

A child’s sense of safety can be undermined if a child continues to observe emotional or physical violence, abuse, or neglect. Instability due to parental separation can trigger a trauma response.

If a child continues to hear degrading, humiliating, and demeaning remarks it can teach the child to hate parts of themselves. High-conflict parenting increases a child’s suicidal ideation, high levels of depression, and difficulty with interpersonal relationships – as they mirror what they learn through parents’ ability to navigate family disruption.

You Have More Control Than You Think

The most important thing that parents need to understand is that the brain of their child will become exactly what the child was exposed to…that is the beauty of the human brain. It is the mirror of the child’s developmental experiences.

Bruce D. Perry

Choose to Limit the Effects of Conflict in Your Child’s Life

Get specialized care and support to help your family break the cycle of violence, abuse, and trauma. Specialists like the Unified Family Therapy team that focuses on Family Systems Therapy and are Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) trained to support families in crisis to limit trauma and have better outcomes. The AFCC guidelines are aware of the need for the child to have the love of their parents. AFCC professionals, like the therapists at Unified Family Therapy, work in multi-disciplinary teams, with their dedication to the resolution of family conflict.

Take Control of Your Divorce and Family Conflict

You can take control of your divorce and family conflict by getting the tools you need to help your child or children feel safe, loved, and stable. Parents who choose to stay in dysfunctional relationships and patterns such as hostile actions, violence, and bullying, particularly when it comes to co-parenting, are not in control of the effects they are leaving on their child or their development. Attempts to control the other parent, using their children to get what they want and other tactics can only result in ongoing confusion and disruptions in trusting relationships, creating a world of mistrust and teaching children their world is unsafe. Therapy can help you gain the tools you need to interact in healthy ways, even when there are disagreements and misunderstandings.

Divorce and Family Conflict is Difficult, Get the Support You Need

Divorce and family conflict can be a painful and confusing process, especially when there are high conflict relationships involved. There are so many pieces that you can not control, but you can control what you do. There are professionals dedicated to making sense of your situation and creating safety and peace for the future of your children and yourself. Unified Family Therapy works with professionals in Utah such as attorneys, judges, mediators, school teachers and other professionals who are interacting with your family in and out of the court to help ease the long-term effects of conflict on your child.


Resources Jody Sargent, LCSW Recommends for Divorce or Family Conflict