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Sentiments from Children of High Conflict Separated Parents

January 13, 2015

There is a sub-group of separated parents who get stuck in unremitting conflict. They are known as high conflict separated parents. In having met with hundreds of children subject to high conflict separated parents, I have learned of the children’s common issues and predicaments. Here is my voice, speaking on their behalf, representing their sentiments:


I am the subject of my parents’ dispute.

Each is the expert on me.

Each believes to know what I am thinking and what I want.

Each believes the other to be inadequate.

Both believe of themselves to be on a righteous mission to save me from the other.

Both have me convinced that the other is bad.

Each believes me to only tell the truth.

I know how each despises the other.

I live with their spoken and at times unspoken animosity for each other.

The hate they have for each other is overwhelming and intimidating.

I am dependent upon them both for my survival.

I must appear to align with each when in their respective company.

I tell both what they want to hear – that keeps the focus on the other and off me.

I do lie to appear aligned and avoid risking their scorn to me for loving them both.

I will split you to get what I want given I can’t love you both.

I can’t concentrate at school.

I sneak their liquor. I sell drugs to purchase my own.

I seek sex wanting to feel close to someone.

At times I can’t feel anything.

At times I cut myself to avoid feeling what I do.

If this doesn’t end, I will end it by ending me.

Please stop hating each other.


If you are regarded as high conflict separated parents, please consider your children’s dilemma and find a way to let them love you both. Take responsibility for your own contribution to distress. Concentrate on making yourself a better parent as opposed to running down the other. Keep your children out of the fray.

(See Gary’s services for separated parents.)

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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  1. very good – short and to the point – hope it reaches parents.

  2. Tabby permalink

    Or you can just get cfs involved and they will choose which parent suits them and elimanate the other and siblings from their lives forever.

  3. STEPcoach permalink

    Thank you for a very useful list. I teach pre-divorce parenting classes for the family courts and one of my toughest tasks is getting parents to understand that their kids don’t sympathize with their hateful vision of their other parent. And, for Tabby, not sure what “cfs” is, but asking children to reject one parent for another brings on even greater feelings of guilt, oppression, and turmoil for these already traumatized kids. Behaving maturely and making these decisions is the job of the parents, not the children. If you are old enough to make babies, you have a Responsibility to treat them and raise them right. Chronic pettiness is child abuse. Period.

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