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Divorcing parents may reduce conflict by focusing on kids

Parents that focus on their children instead of the past relationship problems are likely to become better parents, according to Dr. Marilyn Coleman, a Human Development and Family Studies professor at the University of Missouri. Learning to communicate with each other regarding issues regarding the kids seemed to impact communication in other areas and may lead to less contentious child custody disputes.

In a study involving 20 women that shared child custody with the fathers, the professor found that most of them expected to keep fighting with the other parent after the divorce. However, that was not the case. About half of the women said there was extensive fighting during and after the divorce. Over time though the conflict decreased and the parents' relationship improved.

"Conflict within a marriage or after a divorce is the most harmful thing parents can do for their children's development," Coleman said. Kids lose access to their parents when they split up and end up getting involved in their parents' conflict, she opined. But, once parents saw how the fighting was hurting their children, they began to look at the best interests of the child and to quash the differences with the other parent. The professor noted that it is not easy to share custody and that it takes purposeful effort by the parents.

In Missouri, family law courts offer programs to assist parents to learn how to become co-parents with as little negative impact for the children as possible. These programs can be found on the family court websites and at the court locations.

Source: PsychCentral, "Focus on kids eases conflict for divorced parents," Janice Wood, Aug. 16, 2012

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