Your youngster is watching
Instead of letting cooler heads prevail you snap back and an argument begins. Suddenly you realize that your youngster is watching and listening to every negative word, and you wonder how healthy that is for her.
Most parents argue occasionally – conflicts are unavoidable – but as long as the issues are resolved in a constructive way, conflicts are normal and can even be healthy. However, if arguing is happening so frequently that it seems to be your way of life, and if you're staying upset and really aren't settling anything, the situation can be damaging to your children.
Children may learn that arguing is the only way to solve conflicts
Children have conflicting loyalties when their parents argue, and may feel responsible – especially if their parents are arguing over them. What's more, children may learn to think that arguing is the only way to solve conflicts. They may also become frightened that their parents will separate and leave because of an argument.
"Parents sometimes think that children are too young to understand when mom and dad argue. However, it's the negative tone of the conversation that children pick up on," says Dr. Palmina Ioannone, a parenting expert with Invest in Kids, a national charity dedicated to transforming the way that Canadian parents are educated and supported. "In fact, research has shown that young children are very perceptive, and that they can and do pick up on tension between parents. Constant fighting between parents can have a significant effect on children's well-being."
Arguing can lead to difficulties
Consequently, parental arguing can lead to a number of childhood difficulties, including hostility, difficulty controlling anger, problems concentrating, anxious behaviours, sleep issues and even slow development in gaining new skills, such as toilet training. When children are upset by fighting or tension, they may act out or freeze or become very clingy.
Page 1 of 2 – Find 7 tips to help you reduce the negative effects of conflict on your kids on the next page."What is key is how parents handle the conflict," explains Ioannone.
7 tips to help you reduce the negative effects
There are several ways you can reduce the negative effects of arguing with your spouse or partner on your children. The experts at Invest in Kids have created some helpful information to help parents through this common dilemma.
1. Try to keep your disputes away from your children as much as possible.
2. If an argument does happen in front of them, or close enough for them to hear or see, avoid becoming very loud or intense. Discuss solutions, and end it. Make up as soon as you can, so that the children can see that the argument is over and can learn how to resolve conflict from your example.
3. Try not to confuse your children by arguing with your spouse one minute, then being overly sweet to each other the next in an attempt to make up for the harshness of the disagreement.
4. After your children have seen you arguing, don't deny it. Instead, reassure them that while you were upset with each other, you still care about each other.
5. Assure your children that the fighting is not their fault.
6. Make sure neither you nor your partner places your children in the middle of your conflicts by forcing them to take sides.
7. Try not to justify the arguments with excuses like "I'm just having a bad day" or "I'm just angry."
If there is any physical violence when you argue, or if your arguments are starting to affect your children's behaviour, it's time to get some help. Consult your doctor for referrals to appropriate family services in your area.
This content was created by the child development and parenting experts who developed parents2parents.ca. Visit the site to learn more about the ages and stages your young child is experiencing and to share in the parenting journey of other parents just like you.
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