Parental co-operation crucial for children of divorce

October 27, 1999

Children can develop long-term social and emotional problems if separating parents don't work together to put their kids first, says U of T lecturer Hanna McDonough.

"Research shows that it's not the divorce that hurts children, it's the intensity of the parental conflict that damages them. Children can feel pulled apart and drawn into acting like spies, pawns and mediators," says McDonough, a clinical social worker with the child psychiatry program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Clarke division) and lecturer in U of T's department of psychiatry. Children need unconflicted closeness to both parents to endure the loss of the family, she says, adding that 75 per cent of divorcing parents do develop co-operative parenting relationships. In very high conflict divorces, children can develop problems with aggression, anxiety and depression.

In a new book, Putting Children First - A Guide for Parents Breaking Up (University of Toronto Press), McDonough and co-author Christina Bartha, administrative director of the centre's mood and anxiety program, help parents understand the trauma of divorce for both adults and children, and discuss how to deal with tricky situations that arise in ways that protect the children. They also examine the causes and destructiveness of high conflict divorces. One child, from their clinical practice, wanted to photocopy himself so he could be with both parents while another wanted to 'rewind the videotape' to the time when her parents were happily married.

For parents who are separating, McDonough has some advice - kids need both parents, change your spousal relationship into a business-parental team, give up legal terminology like custody and visitation, don't denigrate each other in front of a child and don't demonize each other. She also suggests parents avoid court and work with mediators, counsellors and lawyers to establish a parental plan -- a legal contract that states how parents will share child-rearing responsibilities.

University of Toronto

Related Mental Health Articles from Brightsurf:

Mental health strained by disaster
A new study found that suicide rates increase during all types of disasters -- including severe storms, floods, hurricanes and ice storms -- with the largest overall increase occurring two years after a disaster.

The mental health impact of pandemics for front line health care staff
New research shows the impact that pandemics have on the mental health of front-line health care staff.

World Mental Health Day -- CACTUS releases report of largest researcher mental health survey
On the occasion of 'World Mental Health Day' 2020, CACTUS, a global scientific communications company, has released a global survey on mental health, wellbeing and fulfilment in academia.

Mental illness, mental health care use among police officers
A survey study of Texas police officers examines how common mental illness and mental health care use are in a large urban department.

COVID-19 outbreak and mental health
The use of online platforms to guide effective consumption of information, facilitate social support and continue mental health care delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic is discussed in this Viewpoint.

COVID-19 may have consequences for mental health
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be adversely affecting mental health among hospitalised patients, the healthcare professionals treating them and the general population.

Mental health outcomes among health care workers during COVID-19 pandemic in Italy
Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and insomnia among health care workers in Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study.

Mental ill health 'substantial health concern' among police, finds international study
Mental health issues among police officers are a 'substantial health concern,' with around 1 in 4 potentially drinking at hazardous levels and around 1 in 7 meeting the criteria for post traumatic stress disorder and depression, finds a pooled data analysis of the available international evidence, published online in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

Examining health insurance nondiscrimination policies with mental health among gender minority individuals
A large private health insurance database was used to examine the association between between health insurance nondiscrimination policies and mental health outcomes for gender minority individuals.

Mental health care for adolescents
Researchers examined changes over time in the kinds of mental health problems for which adolescents in the United States received care and where they got that care in this survey study with findings that should be interpreted within the context of several limitations including self-reported information.

Read More: Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to