Focus on Children Helps Divorced Parents Improve Relationships

Divorced parents can improve their relationship with each other by focusing on their children’s well-being, a new study from the University of Missouri shows.

“Conflict within a marriage or after a divorce is the most harmful thing parents can do for their children’s development,” study co-author Marilyn Coleman says. “If kids go through their parents’ divorce, they’ve lost some access to both parents. If the parental fighting continues, the children have not only lost access, they’re still involved in the conflict—in the ugliness—and it harms the kids.”

But if parents can put aside their differences and focus on their children, they may be able to mend fences with each other.

In the study, “Parents saw how upset their arguments made their kids, so they decided to put their differences aside and focus on what was best for the children,” Coleman says. In this way, relationships that were once combative became cordial, if not necessarily friendly, she says.

Women who had good relationships with their ex-partners all shared similar traits: They had good and frequent communication with their partners, no money problems, and they did not try to limit their ex’s involvement with their kids, the study shows.

The study appears online in the journal Family Relations.

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