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Putting Kids First In Your Separation

Putting kids first in separation cases? Now there is a great idea.

We all want to be good parents and do what is best for our kids. This means putting kids first.

For many of us, that means feeding them nutritious food, keeping a consistent routine, showing them our love, exposing them to some extra-curricular activities, making sure they get properly educated, and making sure they learn basic skills like hygiene etc. These responsibilities can be a lot of work and sometimes may be quite overwhelming. 

For parents who are separated, these jobs can be particularly daunting because they are also dealing with the pain of separation. 

For separated parents, putting kids first is a priority. These responsibilities can be even more challenging to fulfill for separated parents.

Sometimes parents are so wrapped up in their own pain and disappointment about their relationship ending, that they are unable to remember, at least for a time, that the other parent is the, well, their child's other parent. 

More than any other indicator, high conflict guarantees trouble for children and their futures. 

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One way of putting kids first is avoiding conflict with their other parent

In high conflict families, parents might get wrapped up in believing that their way of doing things is better for their children and the other parent’s way of doing things is wrong or misguided. 

What they often do not realize is that the very act of being in conflict with the other parent is what causes the problem for the child. It is not whether or not the children’s routines were strictly adhered to by both parents or not, for example. Putting kids first often means letting things go. 

Family researchers agree that parental conflict is the single largest predictor of a poor outcome for children and their future. The most powerful determinant is the level and intensity of the conflict between the parents. 

Although each child will deal with the parental conflict in his or her own way, the fact is that the likelihood they develop significant problems are much higher than children who come from families where high conflict is not present. These statistics are true whether or not the children’s parents are separated. Kids can act out by showing behavior problems, increased anger and inability to manage their anger, violent behavior, delinquency or addictive behavior. Kids can sometimes turn the conflict inwards and experience depression, isolation, headaches, stomach aches, ulcers, self-cutting and substance abuse. Kids experiencing stress is a big problem.

Some kids end up not interacting well with others and have poor social skills, low self-esteem and poor relationships when they become adults. Finally, because when exposed to high conflict our brains release stress hormones, the repeated exposure to these stressors can impair the brain’s ability to grow and develop normally. In essence, the child is continually in “fight or flight” and his or her brain is not able to function. This results in not doing well in school, the inability to problem-solve, or Attention Deficit Disorder.

Parental conflict is toxic to kids. Parents who expose their kids to conflict unknowingly are literally serving up bits of poison to their kids’ brains each day. Parents putting kids first sometimes unknowingly don't realize how much the conflict can be damaging. Just because your kids are not witnessing the conflict directly, don’t think that they will somehow be saved from the repercussions of conflict. The answer is not so simple as ensuring that your fights happen by way of text, email, or out of ear-shot of the children.


by Val Hemminger, lawyer at Hemminger Law Group Westshore.

Hemminger Law Group Westshore - Lawyers with heart! Providing Family law and Personal Injury law services to the Westshore and beyond (Langford, Westshore, Colwood, View Royal, Sooke, and Victoria)!