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Helping Children of High Conflict Divorce

Have a healthy, coParenting relationship and get tips on how to live a child-centric life after a high-conflict divorce.
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Lori Denman-Underhill
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Helping Children of High Conflict Divorce

Here is some advice on what coParents can do to help children from high-conflict divorce families. This information is from Bob Livingstone, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in San Francisco.

What is a high-conflict divorce? Livingstone explains, it is where marriage ends and a war begins. During this time, kids find different ways to cope in a world where the coParents despise one another. If you are in this kind of a divorce, Livingstone provides a few recommendations:

    • First, as a coParent, ask yourself about your child’s difficulties, suggests Livingstone. Are you contributing to them? Wondering what you may be doing wrong, instead of just blaming the other coParent for everything is suggested?
    • Make sure to not send the message that the other coParent is terrible. Try to assure your child that both you and the other coParent are wonderful and helpful to them.
    • Before you meet up with your ex, have a discussion about the importance of meeting in a spirit of cooperation and admit your shortcomings. Be honest about what it will take to co-parent peacefully with your ex, try to keep your ego aside, and think about what is best for your kids.
    • “Stop litigating,” Livingstone adds. He says that adults in litigation “cannot possibly coParent,” as they are in a space of little to no trust, which is key to coParenting.
    • End the arguments of scheduling times the kids can speak with the other parent. Allow these times to be very flexible. It will decrease the child’s anxiety.
    • If your child does not wish to spend time with you, do not punish, Livingstone advises. Ask them to “describe their feelings” and that you will not be upset.
  • coParents should think about going to counseling for themselves, individually and for the children helps.

Bob Livingstone is a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker with a private practice in San Francisco. He is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and an associate member of The California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. His work is featured on, and this article was inspired by his teachings.

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