How Parents Can Work To Prevent Fighting After A Divorce

By Dr. Griffith
August 2001

The psychologist John Gottman has found that there are four areas that indicate a marriage is in trouble:

Criticism - Attacking the personality of other features of a partner
Contempt - Intense negative comments and devaluing a partner
Defensiveness - Denying any responsibility for problems, making excuses
Stonewalling -Not acknowledging the partner's communication

These four areas continue and sometimes intensify after a couple has separated. Often, there is much felt to be at stake during a divorce -property, money, housing and of course, the children. Parents can lose sight that their continued fighting directly stresses the children.

Parent’s who may have had little success at communicating with each other in a peaceful manner now have the added burden of living apart. Court and other matters can create a sense of distance and add to the conflict.

However, it IS possible to communicate successfully and reduce the impact of parental conflicts on the children.

Here are a few suggestions that I have found helpful to parents who find themselves in such a dilemma. Yes, both parents ideally should want to change. It is possible to make very helpful changes if one spouse introduces positive changes to the communication pattern.

Learn to focus on specific behavior only. By doing this, goals will be more possible to achieve.

Attempt to use emotion free problem solving. To do this, look for solutions and refuse to engage with the other in an emotionally reactive manner.

Have minimal contact with the other parent. Attempt to use a notebook to communicate with each other. This notebook should address any problems the child has during the visit.

Do not talk to the children in a negative manner about the other parent. Robins come back to roost. This can only cause trouble. Keep adult business on one level and child business on another.

ArticleAustin Griffith