Skip to content

Should we tell high conflict separated parents….

September 4, 2015

In my article, Moving Beyond the Limits of Family Court, I discuss the Adverse Childhood Experiences study and its relation to the impact of high conflict separated parents on children. This is a topic picked up on recently by many therapists, mediators and family lawyers.

It is pretty unequivocally accepted now that separated parents engaged in high conflict battles have kids who are at risk of terrible developmental outcomes including:

  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Depression
  • Fetal death
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Illicit drug use
  • Ischemic heart disease (IHD)
  • Liver disease
  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Smoking
  • Suicide attempts
  • Unintended pregnancies
  • Early initiation of smoking
  • Early initiation of sexual activity
  • Adolescent pregnancy
  • death

I am of the view that to not inform/advise/educate parents as to the impact of their behavior on their children may be tantamount to professional negligence. By analogy, this is like the physician who advises the cancer patient that the patient’s smoking is contributory to the cancer and should stop smoking. It would be difficult to imagine a physician not commenting upon the patient’s smoking. So too I take the perspective that we are obliged to advise parents as to the risks imposed upon their children, the result of unremitting conflict.

Do you advise/educate high conflict separated parents as to the risk their conflict poses upon their children? If so, how do you tell them and how is it received? What is your experience with this?

If you do not tell the parents you serve about the risks imposed upon their children the result of their high conflict, why not?

Should we be telling parents about the connection between their conflict and their children’s well being?

I am most interested in opening up this discussion.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Linked In

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.

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

From → Uncategorized

  1. My Broken Circle project has interviews from young adults who comment about their parents’ divorce. Some of them indeed survived parental conflict that still is effecting them (the kids). See

  2. The comments from children from divorce are excellent and offer tremendous insights to parents. Thank you for sharing this.

  3. Shiffo Farah permalink

    I agree with you that Practioners must inform/educate and caution parents about their behaviour and the unintended outcomes on their children. I am a child protection worker and I often come across parents who are oblivious to their children’s emotional state because they are busy fighting with one another. They often tend to forget their children are also hurting in the process.
    How do I tell them? I am a straight shooter, I tell them point blank what the children tell me about their feelings. I encourage the parent to think about the child and not the other parent ( this is a tough exercise, because many believe they are genuinely doing the best for their children, they view this type of an intervention as an attack on them, and often take position that I am partial to the other parent). In many cases, and this takes many conversations, focusing on the children can be a sobering effect at least on one parent. Once you get a buy in from one parent, then There is hope that in time this one parent will develop the capacity to be in tune with his/her child’ emotional well being.

  4. Michelle permalink

    My experience is that these family law court systems initiate high conflict through negligence, possibly due to high volumes of cases that they seem to try to get through as systematically and as quickly as possible, and that they even ignore and then facilitate abusive relationships through their quickly stamped court orders.

    High conflict between parents should be taken into consideration in the court room if the judges are claiming to make decisions in the best interests of the kids.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: