Parents are often reluctant to file for divorce. Even when they know their marriages aren’t working, many worry how the divorce might affect their kids. But is that a good reason to stay in a bad marriage?

The truth is that divorce can be hard on kids. But it’s also hard on you. Just as you’ll recover, your children can recover, and studies show that most children suffer no negative lasting effects. Still, there are steps you can take to help your children cope and recover as quickly as possible.

The key is to minimize parental conflict

Conflict is the enemy. Whether you stay married or get divorced, it’s the conflict—not your marriage or your divorce—that has the greatest impact on your child’s well-being. This is what researchers have determined after looking into the issue for decades. As a result, you want to look for ways to reduce ongoing conflict.

There are times it’s impossible to avoid conflict altogether, but there are steps you can take to help keep your kids away from it:

  • Speak respectfully about your ex in front of the children. No blaming, shaming or bad-mouthing. Your ex may not deserve your respect, but your children do. They don’t want to feel torn between parents.
  • Communicate with your ex directly. Don’t use your children as spies or messengers. Don’t allow your spouse to do so either. Make sure your channels for communication don’t include your children.
  • Acknowledge and honor your children’s feelings. Especially if you have the bulk of parenting time, your children might say they miss your ex. Allow them to. Don’t take offense or try to block their affections.
  • Develop a solid parenting plan. You’ll most likely need to share parenting time with your ex, and a clear, buttoned-down parenting plan may help set boundaries. By erasing confusion, it may reduce potential conflicts. A good plan may also increase your child’s sense of stability.

You want to do right by your kids. It’s not always easy to work with your ex, but every step you take to minimize conflict can pay off down the road.

You don’t have to be a doormat

It’s important to note that your goal is to keep your children away from parental conflict over the long run. It’s not to cave to senseless demands or to allow your children to spend time with an abusive parent.

You don’t want to agree to a parenting plan that doesn’t serve your kids’ best interests. Even if that means pushing back. Your plan should come from your circumstances, and you may need to fight more now to fight less later.