Tips for Surviving a High Conflict Divorce

How to Reduce Parent Conflict During Divorce.

Children of divorce, whose parents are engaging in ongoing conflict of fighting or badmouthing each other, will likely experience more emotional distress, anxiety and depression. In addition to the many difficulties that come along with separation and divorce, being exposed to high levels of conflict can be enough to make a child struggle emotionally. Based on research over the years, it’s not the divorce itself that causes the difficulties, it’s how parents work through it.

So how do you cooperatively co-parent?

Here are 3 tips:

  • Seek help for yourself if you are a parent going through a difficult time. Try not to vent to your children about your ex-spouse. When children hear one parent badmouthing another they are put in the difficult position of supporting you and your frustrations by aligning against their other parent or defending their parent whom is not present.
  • Use a mediator or parenting coordinator instead of communicating through your child. If you don’t think you can effectively and peacefully communicate with your ex-spouse, seek appropriate people to do so. Asking a child to relay information to the other parent or ask questions about upcoming scheduling can cause them to translate the wants of one parent to the other.  This style of communicating through the child can put them in the middle and cause distress.
  • Recognize that your child’s relationship with their other parent is different from your relationship with your ex. The other parent should be treated with as much respect and appropriate boundaries as you can allow so that their relationship as parent and child can grow.

Angela Steranko, Psy.D.


American Psychological Association. An overview of the psychological literature on the effects of divorce on children. Retrieved from

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