Parental Conflict in Front of Kids

Posted May 22, 2017

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Summary

  • Handling arguments poorly can impact kids in negative ways.
  • Kids in high-conflict homes are at risk of anxiety, depression, and behavior problems.
  • When parents handle conflict well, kids learn healthy coping skills and feel more emotionally secure.

All couples disagree. It is not possible to avoid ever having a fight. In fact, despite concerns, fighting doesn’t have to signal marriage trouble. Conflict handled well is an important part of healthy relationships. Handling conflict well can also serve as a great model for kids.

On the flip side, handling conflict poorly or in front of kids can be harmful. When parents don’t cope well, kids can suffer a range of consequences. It is crucial that adults understand how their choices and skills can impact kids—both in good ways and bad.

Emotional toll on kids

When parents fight, there is a toll on all members of the family. The kids may feel it the most, as marital wellness impacts parenting skills. Parents who are upset by marital conflict are simply less emotionally available to their kids. They may not be able to meet kids’ needs, even if it is just a calm bedtime chat, if they are upset. As a result, kids may lack emotional security. Exposure to conflict also teaches them poor coping skills for their own conflicts. At extreme levels, exposure to conflict—especially if it turns violent—is thought of as child abuse.

According to Laura Markham, PhD via Psychology Today, when children hear shouting, there is a boost in stress hormones. These stress hormones can stick around for hours. It is scary for kids to hear adults yell at one another. Anger is also an emotion that children identify and respond to first, before other emotions. Anger and conflict threatens their sense of security. What’s more, kids living in high-conflict homes can experience:

  • Anxiety, depression, or withdrawal
  • Defiance
  • Misbehavior and aggressiveness
  • Adjustment problems
  • Poor social skills compared to peers
  • Problems in school

Some kids may even try to help parents resolve a fight, which is not healthy.

Healthy ways to handle conflict

Since fighting happens with all couples, how can parents protect their kids? To start, know that handling conflict well can do two important things:

  1. Improve a marriage
  2. Help kids adjust well

First, respect is a must. Adults who are respectful to one another strengthen their marriage. This is also great behavior to model for kids. Other tips include:

  • Handle disagreements in private so that kids do not have to watch or hear you.
  • Keep emotional control to stop anger from taking over.
  • Resolve conflicts and make sure kids know they are resolved.
  • Don’t withdraw from your spouse or give the silent treatment. This can be scary for kids to see, as well.
  • Use humor to lighten the mood.
  • Calmly discuss the problem at hand instead of yelling.

When parents handle conflict in healthy ways, it strengthens their bond with their kids. The parent-child relationship is crucial to learning healthy coping skills for years to come. As for the marriage, ask for help if you and your spouse are struggling. Seek a therapist or family counselor to strengthen your skills, as well. Invest in your relationship. The whole family can benefit.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians
www.aafp.org/home.html

Mental Health America
www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help
(800) 273-TALK

By Sarah Stone
Source: "Do You Fight in Front of Your Kids?" by Laura Markham, PhD. Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201406/do-you-fight-in-front-your-kids; Davies, Patrick, Hentges, Rochelle F., Coe, Jesse L., Martin, Meredith J., Sturge-Apple, Melissa L. (May 2016). The Multiple Faces of Interparental Conflict: Implications for Cascades of Children's Insecurity and Externalizing Problems. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. www.researchgate.net/publication/303086089_The_Multiple_Faces_of_Interparental_Conflict_Implications_for_Cascades_of_Children%27s_Insecurity_and_Externalizing_Problems; Booth, Alan, Crouter, Ann C., Clements, Mari L., Book-Holladay, T. (2015). Couples in Conflict: Classic Edition. Penn State University Family Issues Symposia: Taylor & Francis.

Summary

  • Handling arguments poorly can impact kids in negative ways.
  • Kids in high-conflict homes are at risk of anxiety, depression, and behavior problems.
  • When parents handle conflict well, kids learn healthy coping skills and feel more emotionally secure.

All couples disagree. It is not possible to avoid ever having a fight. In fact, despite concerns, fighting doesn’t have to signal marriage trouble. Conflict handled well is an important part of healthy relationships. Handling conflict well can also serve as a great model for kids.

On the flip side, handling conflict poorly or in front of kids can be harmful. When parents don’t cope well, kids can suffer a range of consequences. It is crucial that adults understand how their choices and skills can impact kids—both in good ways and bad.

Emotional toll on kids

When parents fight, there is a toll on all members of the family. The kids may feel it the most, as marital wellness impacts parenting skills. Parents who are upset by marital conflict are simply less emotionally available to their kids. They may not be able to meet kids’ needs, even if it is just a calm bedtime chat, if they are upset. As a result, kids may lack emotional security. Exposure to conflict also teaches them poor coping skills for their own conflicts. At extreme levels, exposure to conflict—especially if it turns violent—is thought of as child abuse.

According to Laura Markham, PhD via Psychology Today, when children hear shouting, there is a boost in stress hormones. These stress hormones can stick around for hours. It is scary for kids to hear adults yell at one another. Anger is also an emotion that children identify and respond to first, before other emotions. Anger and conflict threatens their sense of security. What’s more, kids living in high-conflict homes can experience:

  • Anxiety, depression, or withdrawal
  • Defiance
  • Misbehavior and aggressiveness
  • Adjustment problems
  • Poor social skills compared to peers
  • Problems in school

Some kids may even try to help parents resolve a fight, which is not healthy.

Healthy ways to handle conflict

Since fighting happens with all couples, how can parents protect their kids? To start, know that handling conflict well can do two important things:

  1. Improve a marriage
  2. Help kids adjust well

First, respect is a must. Adults who are respectful to one another strengthen their marriage. This is also great behavior to model for kids. Other tips include:

  • Handle disagreements in private so that kids do not have to watch or hear you.
  • Keep emotional control to stop anger from taking over.
  • Resolve conflicts and make sure kids know they are resolved.
  • Don’t withdraw from your spouse or give the silent treatment. This can be scary for kids to see, as well.
  • Use humor to lighten the mood.
  • Calmly discuss the problem at hand instead of yelling.

When parents handle conflict in healthy ways, it strengthens their bond with their kids. The parent-child relationship is crucial to learning healthy coping skills for years to come. As for the marriage, ask for help if you and your spouse are struggling. Seek a therapist or family counselor to strengthen your skills, as well. Invest in your relationship. The whole family can benefit.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians
www.aafp.org/home.html

Mental Health America
www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help
(800) 273-TALK

By Sarah Stone
Source: "Do You Fight in Front of Your Kids?" by Laura Markham, PhD. Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201406/do-you-fight-in-front-your-kids; Davies, Patrick, Hentges, Rochelle F., Coe, Jesse L., Martin, Meredith J., Sturge-Apple, Melissa L. (May 2016). The Multiple Faces of Interparental Conflict: Implications for Cascades of Children's Insecurity and Externalizing Problems. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. www.researchgate.net/publication/303086089_The_Multiple_Faces_of_Interparental_Conflict_Implications_for_Cascades_of_Children%27s_Insecurity_and_Externalizing_Problems; Booth, Alan, Crouter, Ann C., Clements, Mari L., Book-Holladay, T. (2015). Couples in Conflict: Classic Edition. Penn State University Family Issues Symposia: Taylor & Francis.

Summary

  • Handling arguments poorly can impact kids in negative ways.
  • Kids in high-conflict homes are at risk of anxiety, depression, and behavior problems.
  • When parents handle conflict well, kids learn healthy coping skills and feel more emotionally secure.

All couples disagree. It is not possible to avoid ever having a fight. In fact, despite concerns, fighting doesn’t have to signal marriage trouble. Conflict handled well is an important part of healthy relationships. Handling conflict well can also serve as a great model for kids.

On the flip side, handling conflict poorly or in front of kids can be harmful. When parents don’t cope well, kids can suffer a range of consequences. It is crucial that adults understand how their choices and skills can impact kids—both in good ways and bad.

Emotional toll on kids

When parents fight, there is a toll on all members of the family. The kids may feel it the most, as marital wellness impacts parenting skills. Parents who are upset by marital conflict are simply less emotionally available to their kids. They may not be able to meet kids’ needs, even if it is just a calm bedtime chat, if they are upset. As a result, kids may lack emotional security. Exposure to conflict also teaches them poor coping skills for their own conflicts. At extreme levels, exposure to conflict—especially if it turns violent—is thought of as child abuse.

According to Laura Markham, PhD via Psychology Today, when children hear shouting, there is a boost in stress hormones. These stress hormones can stick around for hours. It is scary for kids to hear adults yell at one another. Anger is also an emotion that children identify and respond to first, before other emotions. Anger and conflict threatens their sense of security. What’s more, kids living in high-conflict homes can experience:

  • Anxiety, depression, or withdrawal
  • Defiance
  • Misbehavior and aggressiveness
  • Adjustment problems
  • Poor social skills compared to peers
  • Problems in school

Some kids may even try to help parents resolve a fight, which is not healthy.

Healthy ways to handle conflict

Since fighting happens with all couples, how can parents protect their kids? To start, know that handling conflict well can do two important things:

  1. Improve a marriage
  2. Help kids adjust well

First, respect is a must. Adults who are respectful to one another strengthen their marriage. This is also great behavior to model for kids. Other tips include:

  • Handle disagreements in private so that kids do not have to watch or hear you.
  • Keep emotional control to stop anger from taking over.
  • Resolve conflicts and make sure kids know they are resolved.
  • Don’t withdraw from your spouse or give the silent treatment. This can be scary for kids to see, as well.
  • Use humor to lighten the mood.
  • Calmly discuss the problem at hand instead of yelling.

When parents handle conflict in healthy ways, it strengthens their bond with their kids. The parent-child relationship is crucial to learning healthy coping skills for years to come. As for the marriage, ask for help if you and your spouse are struggling. Seek a therapist or family counselor to strengthen your skills, as well. Invest in your relationship. The whole family can benefit.

Resources

American Academy of Family Physicians
www.aafp.org/home.html

Mental Health America
www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help
(800) 273-TALK

By Sarah Stone
Source: "Do You Fight in Front of Your Kids?" by Laura Markham, PhD. Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/peaceful-parents-happy-kids/201406/do-you-fight-in-front-your-kids; Davies, Patrick, Hentges, Rochelle F., Coe, Jesse L., Martin, Meredith J., Sturge-Apple, Melissa L. (May 2016). The Multiple Faces of Interparental Conflict: Implications for Cascades of Children's Insecurity and Externalizing Problems. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. www.researchgate.net/publication/303086089_The_Multiple_Faces_of_Interparental_Conflict_Implications_for_Cascades_of_Children%27s_Insecurity_and_Externalizing_Problems; Booth, Alan, Crouter, Ann C., Clements, Mari L., Book-Holladay, T. (2015). Couples in Conflict: Classic Edition. Penn State University Family Issues Symposia: Taylor & Francis.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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