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Parental conflict: How to communicate with the affected child


I am writing this article confidently not because I hold a degree in Counselling but because I have credibility of experience. Recently a friend of mine was sharing his concern about his teenage cousin whose parents were going through a divorce.” She must become independent and study to be a professional”, he said. ”Oh shut up!” I retorted before I could curtail my emotions,” what choice does she have? And why are you making her pay for her parents’ problems?”

In that moment it dawned on me that I was, in fact, affected by the fact that my parents are divorced. I am grateful that I was shielded from any display of violence or negativity while it happened. I have received a lot of encouragement to pursue my aspirations. Yet a label or some immature, careless declaration shakes me up. Maybe I now have reached a place where I can tell people what not to say to a child living through a time when his or her parents are unable to stay together.

Avoid passing judgement on the parent’s decisions

Although it is ideal for a child to have the loving presence of both parents in their early lives there are situations where temporary or permanent separation can be the only solution for peaceful coexistence. We have not walked the couple’s path and therefore are in no position to decide for them. What keeps both parents sane and sensitive to their children’s needs is the best option for the family.

Avoid commenting on either parent’s character

Children imbibe the shame when their families are criticised. A deep sense of unworthiness takes root in them. Somehow children instinctively feel that they contribute to the situation and have hurt or disturbed their mother or father. It is emotionally very trying for a child who depends on his parents for nurturing to see them disturbed or distanced. Do not worsen the turmoil.

Do not scold the child if he or she expresses anger towards a parent.

Very often we tell children who are raised by a single parent that they should be cooperative and helpful to their mother or father. We remind them of how hard their struggle is when they work for two. While this is true we must remember that it is natural for a child to do that if they feel secure and connected. There are instances when this ordeal makes a parent depressed or anxious. They may distance themselves emotionally from the child or turn paranoid and over protective. When these patterns continue there is a big threat to the child’s developing personality.

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Dr. Krishna Mahathi holds diplomas in Pediatrics and in the management of allergies and asthma. Years of working and interacting with children and parents have given her insight into developmental disabilities. She wishes that there was more awareness and acceptance of the issues that differently-abled children face and hopes that through this blog, she can enable thse children and their families to make sensible and informed choices.


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