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Negative post-divorce co-parenting confuses, harms Arkansas kids

You don't have to like your ex to love your kids. The hard part for some Little Rock parents is not letting the dislike of a former spouse get in the way of co-parenting. You have a choice to make interactions with or about the other parent productive or harmful.

Realize children are caught in the emotional middle between two people they love. Hearing one parent disparage another destabilizes a child's feelings and may make them feel like they have to choose the "better" parent. Many divorced parents continue to have conflicts over child support, custody or other issues long after a marriage has formally ended, but these family law problems don't have to play out in front of children.

You can acknowledge the dislike you have for a former spouse without throwing verbal barbs at him or her. Exes often have a very long co-parenting road ahead. Long-lasting hurt and bitterness over a marriage create wounds in children that deepen over time.

A Huffington Post article quoted a doctor's newsletter that stated most teens would be willing to give up some of their parents' love to guarantee their mothers and fathers got along. This shows the depth of hurt children can feel when they witness parental arguments or hear one parent run down another.

Many parents see negative emotional and psychological changes in their children following a divorce. Some parents don't make the connection between their own actions and a child's bad grades or behavioral problems. Are the things you say and do harming them?

Children are responding to comments that make an ex sound like a bad parent. Children may interpret that to mean they should feel guilty or wrong about loving your ex -- your outward conflicts become their internal conflicts. Third parties like family counselors and parenting support groups can help parents work through unresolved divorce feelings and learn to co-parent effectively.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Parental Conflict Alienates, Hurts and Changes Children of Divorce Long-Term" Rosalind Sedacca, Aug. 18, 2014

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