Are Your Kids Feeling the Fallout of Your Marital Arguments?
Being a parent is like navigating a 24/7 maze. Everything you say and do has the potential to impact your children. This impact, of course, can be positive or negative. When it comes to martial arguments, the fallout is all negative. The goal is to never argue with your spouse. That’s impossible. Rather, it’s absolutely essential that you:
- Recognize that your disagreements have an impact on others
- Modify your behavior to limit this collateral damage
Naturally, you and your partner will want to resolve differences and minimize conflict. But while you pursue that process, it is your obligation to lessen how argument fallout reaches your kids.
Children Want to Feel Safe
You may wonder if your child ever pays attention to you. Yes, this can be questionable when it comes to setting rules and criticizing behavior. However, you can rest assured that your kids are always paying close attention to your emotions. They also keep track of how and when you express those emotions. Kids do this because they want and need to feel safe. Keeping tabs on you is a major step in that direction for them.
Marital strife appears, to a child, like mixed messages. It forces them into making assumptions and assigning fears without enough information. Their self-esteem is stunted and the fallout — as you’re about to see — can become systemic.
The Fallout of Marital Arguments
Conflict stresses everyone out. Children, of course, are not yet fully equipped with coping mechanisms. Therefore, living in a stressful home can have lifetime effects on kids. They look to adults in general and parents in particular for cues. When these signals are crossed, it shapes how a child grows into their own emotions and communication styles. Research shows babies as young as six months registering household discord!
In addition, kids raised in a conflict-filled environment have been found to develop:
- Hostility with relationships
- Decreased cognitive skills
- Greater likelihood of eating disorders
- Higher rates of substance abuse and behavior issues
- Physical ailments, e.g. sleep disturbances, digestive issues, etc.
- Higher high school dropout rate
- Generally, a negative perspective on their lives
All of this is not point the accusing finger of blame on parents. Marriage is hard. Disagreements are inevitable. Again, the goal isn’t to magically eliminate conflict. Rather, it is imperative that both parents commit to finding healthier ways to express emotions and manage arguments.
Constructive vs. Destructive Marital Arguments
As the names imply, there are different ways to disagree. These tactics are viewed as “destructive” when they include:
- Insults and other verbal abuse
- Physical aggression
- Passive-Aggressive behavior like the silent treatment and thinly veiled threats to leave
- Withdrawing attention and affection
Conversely, a more “constructive” approach to arguments will involve:
- Never forgetting your bond and that you’re “on the same team”
- Choosing empathy to open the exchange
- Giving each other the benefit of the doubt
- Remembering that even a statement of disappointment or disapproval can be expressed with kindness
- Focusing on resolution rather than blame
- Refusing to turn a disagreement into a competition
How to Raise Your Communication Game for the Good of All Involved
There is no parenthood handbook. Such a guide cannot exist because family situations are too fluid. But you can develop guidelines and boundaries that help you manage this fluidity.
The goal is to learn better communication. This will not only work out your differences with your partner. It most definitely will also protect your children from the fallout described above. Couples counseling is a safe space where both partners can speak freely. You’ll identify patterns and create new approaches. Your weekly work in therapy adds up to healthier communication and kids who feel safe — even in times of conflict. The couples and marriage counselors at Eddins Counseling Group located in Houston, TX can help you and your partner create these better methods of communication. Call us today at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online.
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