How do children feel when parents stop communicating with each other?
When parents stop communicating, there is always a deep conflict behind it. For the child, it is often extra tough because children need the adults to take responsibility and own the adult communication. Otherwise, children easily find themselves in a bind and are forced to take responsibility for an adult relationship over which they have no power.
Sometimes it is difficult to achieve an okay co-parenting relationship after a separation. You want to move on, but the conflicts only repeat themselves. Often focus is on the parents and not the child. For some, it can feel so difficult that they think it is better not to communicate with the co-parent at all:
“It not working anyway! If we don’t talk, at least there’s no fighting and peace and quiet.”
Or is it?
“We can’t have a conflict if we never communicate, can we?”
Yes, you can. For cohabiting parents, it is natural (and important) to communicate with each other. Some often talk on the phone, while others communicate briefly via chat or SMS from time to time. To never communicate, despite having children under the age of eighteen together, shows that there are underlying conflicts. It is these unresolved conflicts that build up over time that are harmful to children (and parents). A prolonged, stubborn silence between parents is just as much conflict as parents yelling at each other. The permafrost conflict only manifests itself in a different way, through a palpable silence and bad vibes.
Good relationships are part of parental responsibility
One of our most important tasks as parents is to teach our children how we should relate to other people. We need to teach the child how to build strong relationships. When we separate and the child may start living alternately, higher demands are also placed on us to plan and communicate well so that the child’s everyday life can function. We need help packing the bag for next week when the child is younger and we plan together with the child (and the co-parent) as the child gets older.
We also need to help the child in his relationships with his important adults. Primarily the co-parent but also others such as siblings, cousins and friends. It creates a community around the child that conveys security.
When parents stop talking, they put the responsibility on the children
When adults do not take responsibility for the parental relationship and stop communicating and cooperating with each other, the responsibility for planning and communication is shifted to the child. It can be compared to a parent passively renouncing the part of parenthood that involves helping the child in its relationships.
For the child, it can mean that the parents’ bad mood/conflict “moves into” the child’s life and becomes something that the child is forced to deal with every day. It can lead to stress, feelings of guilt and anxiety if the child is forced to act as a messenger or mediator between the parents. This is unsustainable for children in the long term as the child can never “win” or “succeed” as the solution to the conflict is not with the child but with the parents. Parents can help their children by resuming communication with each other and thus taking back responsibility for the child’s everyday life.
What can I do to avoid “permafrost” and protect the child?
A good starting point is to find communication channels that work with the co-parent – and with the child as they gets older and more independent. Regardless of how old the child is, parents need to have their own channels to communicate. Just the knowledge that you can reach each other if needed without conflict is usually good for the child.
Think about the best form of contact
You know your co-parent and probably have a pretty good idea of the reasons for the conflicts and the silence. What solutions can you see for the future?
Get started with Varannan Vecka
When communication has completely ceased the app can then be a flexible way to communicate. Total focus on the child and with some distance between you parents so that no new conflicts arise. Try inviting the co-parent to the app. It may be that the co-parent also wants a change for the good of the child.
Talk to the child
It is important that the child learns that it is not their fault that the parents have stopped communicating. It is important that the child is allowed to talk about what is happening and that we adults put our own needs aside and listen. The goal is therefore not for us parents to present quick solutions. We need to confirm that we are there, that we understand and that we are trying to do what we can to establish good communication with the co-parent.
You can only take responsibility for your own actions to melt the permafrost. Remember, it shows when parents make an effort that means a lot!
Summary – How do children feel when parents stop communicating with each other?
- “Permafrost” or prolonged compact silence between parents shows that there is an underlying conflict that makes communication around the child impossible.
- Through their silence, the parents place the responsibility for communication on the child, who is forced to live with the parents’ silent conflict in their everyday life.
- For children, it can lead to, among other things, stress, worry and anxiety as the solution to the conflict is never with the child and always with the parents.
- Take responsibility for your child’s well-being and change your own behavior:
Get to know our app and invite the co-parent
Get outside help if needed.
Talk to the child: lift the responsibility for parental cooperation from the child and help the child understand that it is not the child’s fault that things are like this at the moment.
Continue to do what you can on your side to create good communication around the child. Efforts are noticeable, especially for children!