[This is part of a week long series on Parental Anger.]
Many of today’s parents grew up in families (or knew families) who didn’t handle conflict well and they want to learn how to handle conflict better around their kids.
It is unhealthy for kids to be around their parents’ fights if the parents are hostile or threatening, insulting each other, dragging up every example of wrong-doing from the whole relationship, or storming away in anger. This sort of family conflict is associated with guilt and shame, depression, withdrawal, anxiety disorders, aggression and impulse control issues. Sulking, the silent treatment and the cold shoulder are just as hard on kids. They sense the tension and know something is wrong, but they don’t know what is wrong, and whether it’s their fault. If you’re in a relationship where these kinds of fights are common, your children would benefit from you seeking counseling and support now to resolve some of these issues.
On the other hand, if parents have a healthy relationship and argue in a healthy way, that can actually benefit the kids. If you’re respectful and loving toward each other even in an argument, if you stay focused on the current issue, and if you resolve things before walking away, this can show your kids that people can disagree, even when they love and respect each other, and then work out their differences in a constructive manner. They learn that negotiation, compromise, and resolution are possible.
Things to keep in mind:
- Some topics are off-limits in front of the kids (like your romantic / sexual relationship.)
- Don’t argue about the kids or about parenting issues in front of the kids. It’s very important to resolve issues out of their view so you can present a united front to them.
- If you notice that your arguments start off civil, and then escalate upwards, make a plan. Set an anger cut-off point. On an anger scale of one to ten, when do you start to lose control and behave inappropriately? If you’re in a disagreement with your partner, and notice you’re nearing that cut-off point, call a time-out. Table the argument for another time. Or set a time limit on arguments, after which you walk away to calm down and come back to it later. Watch your children for cues that it’s too much: they cry, become clingy, freeze in place, look withdrawn or depressed. They may also misbehave to draw you away from the argument, or try to peace keep. If you do call a time-out, be sure to go back to it later, resolve the argument, and let your kids know that you resolved it.
- Children interpret your arguments within the full context of your relationship. If you have a warm, supportive, loving relationship despite arguments, that will shine through.
Family that Fights Together: www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304213904579093151181560622
When Mom and Dad Disagree: www.nbcnews.com/id/29959807/ns/health-childrens_health/t/how-dare-you-when-mom-dad-disagree/#.VVwUcUY2ekI
For ideas for relationship skills for building a healthy relationship, check out: https://gooddayswithkids.com/category/parenting-skills/relationships/