How conflict between separated parents affects their children

How conflict between separated parents affects their children
The longer children are put in the middle of parental conflict, the more emotional and psychological trauma they will experience
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 6:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 July, 2015, 6:06am
Lora Lee

parental conflict
How conflict between separated parents affects their children
I recently separated from my husband, but my young children cry every time they have to see their father during his access time. They complain that he is not fun and shouts at them. I feel bad about forcing them to go as they often seem so unhappy, but their father told me they are happy once they settle down. I am worried but I know it is important for them to see their father.

Experienced teachers will tell you that when young children first start school, how they settle into the new environment depends on how confident they are and how the parent handles the separation.

As parents, it is our job to help the child overcome the fear of the new environment and people. During postgraduate training, I spent a year observing four children as they arrived and were picked up from school, and found that nervous mothers often fuelled anxiety in their children.

If a parent believes the separation will be difficult, the child is more likely to think school life is too hard (projection)

Research in Britain during the second world war on child-parent interaction clearly suggested that how a mother reacted to a traumatic experience such as going into a shelter or constant bombing had a direct effect on how the children coped with the stress of danger. The mother’s reactions not only affected how the children dealt with stress but also their life trajectory.

Another study published in Developmental Psychology in 1985 by James Sorce and others also supported the idea of infants’ ability to observe their mother’s emotional signals.

Neuroscience further confirmed the serendipitous discovery of mirror neurons, how children learn to decode (receive and interpret) facial expressions with emotions. When a mother frowns or shows disgust towards someone or something, the same regions of the child’s brain become activated. So, if a mother shows anxiety during separation, her amygdala lights up and thus the child’s amygdala lights up, and that triggers the emotional response of fight or flight.

The way we see others is shaped by our early experience (not just childhood, but previous relationships) and sometimes we project what we fear onto others or their behaviour. If you feel the father of your children might not be as capable as you or that your children don’t like to spend time with him, you are more likely to focus on what you believe instead of seeing the reality as objectively as possible.

It is not easy to be 100 per cent honest with yourself and to separate your fears. But your behaviour will leave an enduring impact on your children. I am sure you love your children, but sometimes anger and fear cloud our judgment and adversely influence their long-term adjustment.

Taking the time to write positively indicates you have the capacity to reflect on whether you are doing the best for your children and considering whether your behaviour is providing them with the best support.

Your behaviour now will have long-term effects on your children. You might not be able to see the results immediately, but research clearly shows that the longer children are put in the middle of parental conflict or under the influence of a parent’s alienating behaviour, the more emotional and psychological trauma they will experience and the more damage will be done to their development. If the father is not able to attune to your children’s needs as you like, the more you have to help prevent estrangement and to build a healthy attachment between them.

Your description of the separation suggests there are still some unresolved emotional issues. To protect your children, the best way may be to move on, and not let the bitterness and anger over your failed marriage bleed through to your new relationship as co-parents. It may be good to talk to friends and relatives as they know you and the father. But if they tend to agree with everything you say and amplify your fears, you might want to consider consulting a trained professional.

Some people see divorce as a failure, some seen it as a journey of self-discovery. It can be a bit scary and lonely at times, but with the right support and attitude, you and your children can reach the end safely. Remember, you are your children’s first and most important teacher for life.

Lora Lee is a registered child psychologist and divorce co-parenting counsellor in private practice

#FightOrFlight   #MirrorNeurons   #ParentalConflict   #ProjectingFearOntoOthers

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Robert Chaen

Global CEO-Founder of ChangeU and Movsha Movers & Shakers, Hero-CEO Whisperer, Writer, The #1 Alpha Change Expert, Father of Asian FireWalking Robert Chaen is an International Keynote Speaker, writer, researcher, and corp games designer. He is famously known to be the “Hero-CEO Whisperer”, 1-on1 coaching with many CEOs and Celebrities for corporate strategies, staff & office political issues, personal branding, and even public figure OSHA safety drilling called Drager Defense. He has transformed CEOs and managers in Coca-Cola China, TVB Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airport Services, VADS, TM, Public Bank, Auditor General's Office Maldives, etc. He is the prolific creator and online Author of innovative management tools such as DragonCEO, Diamond Leader, Papillon Personal Effectiveness, OSHA Drager Defense, KPI Bank, etc. He is also the Founder of Movsha, an international networking with monthly mingles with MOVers & SHAkers, Angels, Entrepreneurs, CEOs, Celebrities, HR-PR-CSR, HODs, and the Most Influential IDEA people. ​Chaen is widely considered as one of the top International Platform Keynote Speakers for Resorts World Genting Senior Management Conference (Manila), 7-Eleven HK, Samsung, Coca-Cola China Mini-MBA @Tsing Hua University, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Jockey Club, The Story Conference where he interviewed Datuk Kamarudin (Chairman of AirAsia) and Siti Nurhaliza. He has been widely featured in TVB, AWSJ, CNBC, SCMP, The Star, and Sin Chew. As “The Father of Asian FireWalking”, he coached TVB celebrities (Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin) to walk on 650°C fire; and raised HK$68M in the world’s 1st and only live TV Charity FireWalk (TVB Tung Wah Charity Show), before Tony Robbins even came to Asia. If Robert can get you to walk on 650⁰C fire, he can inspire you to be THE BEST. He champions CN-HK-EU-US Tycoons to be philanthropic, and to be angel investors to support the next generation of Jack Mas, Steve Jobs, Richard Bransons, Steven Spielbergs, or Barrack Obamas. With some slick motivational speakers with fake doctorates out there, graduates often describe Robert to be "the most credible, empowering, truthful Coach" who believe in his graduates to believe in themselves. ​However, clients have described Robert as "The #1 Cool Badass Alpha Change Expert". He has the coolest first class stature, rapport and trust from clients. He will not hesitate to tell the badass truth ever so gently because clients are paying him big bucks to reveal the truth, find solutions, persuade the hostile HODs, and align cross-teams within the organization. Originally based in Hong Kong for 20+ years, he had worked with top Branding/Ad agencies at J Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett, and was a certified FranklinCovey (7 Habits) in USA, and NLP MasterCoach (USA). His warmth is known to soften the most hardened, resistant sceptics. He will inspire your team to Go for Top 1, or to be a Dragon CEO. With boundless energies, Robert owns 15+ successful business Joint-Ventures, and created unique products under his global VC network called Chaen's Angels VC. He is deeply passionate about ChangeUTH Youth CSR, Science-Based Medicine (vs. quackery), short films and Reality TV. Touched by a personal tragedy through the loss of his HK-born Portuguese wife, co-coach and business partner, Brenda José of 18 years, Robert explores the many ways in which the spirit world is communicating with the living with real scientific studies and evidence. He gives inspiring conferences on The Secret Afterlife.

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