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Children Living With Adult Conflict

As mooted in a previous blog, lots of children and young people have returned to school with mixed feelings; glad to see some of their friends but a little resistant to a more structured day with some pressure on them to demonstrate learning.

For some children and young people though, school is their safe place where they can feel secure and not at risk of harm, for these youngsters being at home all the time may have caused a lot of distress. Living in a family where conflict between adults is a regular scenario, children and young people can become fearful and hyper vigilant, constantly on high alert, scanning for danger or anything that might pose a threat.

When parents are locked in regular battles, they can forget the profound effect their conflict is having on their children. So absorbed are they in the breakdown of their own relationship, they may find it impossible to give any time to the consequences of their difficulties on other family members.

The media has recently been very full of stories of relationship breakdown, adults and children’s mental health issues and the pressure that has been put upon families in lockdown. If relationships were already ‘wobbly’ it would seem that having to spend unprecedented amounts of time together inevitably puts the final nail in the coffin for some.

 As the family will have been together for much of the time over the last few months, inevitably, children will have been more exposed to any parental conflict, whilst some of the young people may seem to take it in their stride, others may demonstrate distress more visibly. Either way I would strongly encourage parents to check in on the children, whatever their age, just to see if they are ready to discuss any concerns they might have about the family situation. Sometimes it can be really difficult to get children and young people to engage in difficult conversations, but just try to remain patient, curious and empathetic, they will usually talk when they feel ready. Offer what reassurances are available about what is going on between parents, but don’t overload them with too much information and keep detail to the minimum.

If there feels like there is no one else to turn to, please try and avoid leaning too much on older children, I know there may be a huge temptation to do so, but their role isn’t to offer emotional support to either parent when they are in conflict. If they are asked to do so, it will invite feelings of disloyalty and put undue pressure on them.

If you have any questions about separation, divorce and children’s responses to parental conflict and separation please call the team at Brethertons on 01788 557587.