By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC

For years I’ve been pointing out to parents one clear message. Fighting around the children does more damage to them than their parents’ divorce. Serious emotional harm to the kids is avoided when parents handle divorce amicably. And when they put their children’s psychological needs top of mind when making all decisions.

Many studies over several decades confirm this perspective. They show how and why children exposed to constant parental bickering are more likely to be depressed. They are also more prone to expressing other “problem behaviors,” including substance abuse, aggression and poor school grades.

Not surprisingly these studies have revealed significant challenges for parents who are dealing with “money-related chronic stress.” For those parents, relationships with their children were highly tense and lacking in intimacy. Add the stress related to divorce and the outcome for children exposed to this tension increases exponentially.

When interviewed about this topic California divorce attorney Joann Babiak had the following suggestions. You’ll notice they are totally aligned with the advice we consistently offer to parents in the Child-Centered Divorce community. The psychological harm from parental battles is damaging long-term!

Never battle where kids can see or hear you.

Little ears can pick up phone conversations as well as conflict behind closed bedroom doors. “People don’t think about the impact of their words on the little ones who are hearing it,” Babiak said. “I saw one child who just kept eating and internalizing his parents’ conflict. The physician eventually told the mother that this was negligence and she was creating additional levels of stress inside her child.” 

Never play one parent off the other to win your child’s favors.

“I’ve seen a lot of instances where the child asked for something. One parent would say, No, you can’t have that because your mother’s not paying child support. Does that impact the relationship between both parents regardless of who’s paying? You’d better believe it does,” said Babiak. Bashing or demeaning your child’s other parent hurts and angers children in serious ways. Keep personal grievances personal and don’t use your kids as sounding boards. They’ll resent you for it and pay the price in stress, anxiety, depression and/or aggression.  

Never let your children feel unimportant to you.

Too often professionals see co-parents ignoring their children during custodial visits or handing them off to other caregivers so they can work. That child isn’t sharing time with the parent. They’re just sitting around the house. If a child’s consistently not seeing their  parent and enjoying time together because the parent is out in the workforce, that will only increase mistrust and conflict. 

Married or divorced, the results of parental conflict or inattention are the same. Children are wounded on a deep emotional level that can scar them for life. Stress is ever-prevalent in our culture, especially during tough economic times. But our children only get one childhood. Don’t they deserve the very best you can provide for them – your love, attention and the security of your presence?

We don’t need any further studies to acknowledge what we all know. Parents are the most powerful role models for our children. Be the person you want them to see and model themselves after. You’ll never regret it – nor will they!

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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is a Divorce & Parenting Coach and Founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network. She is the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her free ebook on Post-Divorce Parenting, and learn about her coaching services, programs and other valuable resources on divorce and parenting issues, visit

© Rosalind Sedacca  All rights reserved.