Statistics tell us that after the birth of a child marriages are at more risk to fail. Parents of a new baby often push their relationship to the background, because all attention is focused on their new bundle of joy. This with added stress and exhaustion a new baby brings places parents more prone to conflict.
We often find arguments then start to become habitual. Months, or even years of sleep deprivation, less alone time together, focus away from the couple relationship can all take its toll. As children grow peace and harmony within the home is usually lost as well. The result can be a negative household with destructive relationships and damaging communication. This can lead to hostility, anger, disrespect and resentment being displayed in front of the children
The result for the kids
The consequences of arguments within the home may not be immediately evident in the children’s behaviour. Be assured, they hear, see and feel it all, and this does have an effect on them.
Any conflict can make children feel threatened either physically or emotionally. Sometimes the child or children may feel they are responsible for their parents’ fighting or arguing. This fear can escalate into emotional issues for the child including stress, anxiety, depression, insecurity, and fear. Kids love both their parents and only want them to get on.
Research tells us that children living on a conflictual home do not thrive, in fact, they can thrive better in a stable, happy single parent household.
All Kids are Affected
Children seeing and hearing their parents argue or fight is always detrimental. While it may educate them that sometimes grownups argue, what it does teach is how to yell, scream, threaten and say demeaning things to someone they supposedly love and care for. This teaches children how to communicate and it is never helpful to demonstrate this type of communication to those so impressive and young.
Children can fear that their parents will separate or divorce thereby creating more insecurity and fear. Children may also try to hide their anxiety or express their fears or anxiety in other ways such as acting out or becoming aggressive. This is not due to the child being aggressive but what they are experiencing within their home. It is often easy to know what is going on behind closed doors when you have an angry, aggressive child.
Not all is lost if you are parents who have been arguing and fighting. The most important thing parents can do is to recognise they have been fighting and take proactive steps to learn new strategies to resolve their issues.
No one can solve all their conflicts instantly. Learning a healthier form of conflict resolution through conversation is an excellent example to demonstrate to the children. How to negotiate and solve problems through respectful and mindful communication is wonderful learning.
When a disagreement occurs, it can be an opportunity for the parents to practice the skills and strategies they have learnt. There will always be an opportunity to practice as there will always be differences of opinion.
Parents can learn to speak respectfully, listen, ask for clarification, and take the time to process what was said before reacting. This demonstrates to the children good communication techniques. It also allows the parents to calm down, think then respond better than they perhaps use to.
Parents should never promise they won’t disagree or even argue, that they can do, once they learn how to disagree in a mature and appropriate manner. This means never using bad words or insults. It means at speaking about the current issue only, not a heap of past matters. It also is about listening to the other person in an attempt to understand the reason behind their behaviour or action.
Parents should understand how much they are putting their children’s well-being at risk when they argue. Parents should take whatever steps that are needed to stop arguing. Seeking professional help isn’t saying your relationship is in jeopardy, it is saying we are intelligent people who need to learn new strategies.
We all deserve to live in a loving, peaceful and happy home. This applies to the children as well as mum and dad. When we are happy, feel loved, respected and heard, life can be just wonderful.
Read more from Dr Karen