It is not uncommon for parents to have disagreements, arguments. It can be over household finances, chores or parenting, the truth being, conflict is inevitable in any relationship. It is also no surprise that conflict can negatively impact children. Considering that conflict is bound to arise in a relationship, how do we stop it from affecting our children’s sense of security, especially in the place they call home and with the people that are their safe space.
More than whether conflict arises, it is important to pay attention to how it is resolved. Conflict seems almost avoidable when two people live together and navigate the challenges of life. However, the frequency, intensity and the way it is resolved can have an impact on family dynamics and children. As parents, we are role models to children by default. For children, seeing their parents navigate disagreements and conflict using a healthy discussion, without losing their cool can help them understand and learn conflict resolution skills. It can also be a role model for healthy interpersonal relationships that shape their ideas about their future relationships. However, often parental conflicts may not be resolved in a healthy manner or end amicably. It can involve raising voices, verbal threats, insults and heated discussions or partners ignoring each other and refusing to reconcile for long periods of time. This can cause children distress, lead to fear, feelings of anxiety and insecurity not to forget the impact it has on the marital relationship.
Excessive parental conflict can make a child feel unsafe and scared in their own home. A tense environment at home can take away their sense of comfort and security. For all children, their home is their safe space and parental conflict can take away that sense of safety and security.
Although parental conflict can arise due to many reasons, it can also stem from disagreements over parenting or other aspects of the children. Irrespective of the reason for the conflict, children are too young to understand the reason and reality of parental conflict. This can often lead to children feeling like they are responsible for their parent’s arguments. This can lead to feelings of guilt.
When children witness parental conflicts, they are unable to process this situation or the feelings that arise from it. As they experience fear, anxiety or insecurity, they may not always be able to express what they experience in a straightforward manner. This can lead to behavioural and emotional problems, as children tend to act out when they experience big feelings they are not capable of handling.
Although disagreements can arise at any time, try to pick a better time to address them. Avoid heated arguments in front of your children and as much as possible pick some alone time with your spouse to discuss concerns. You are more likely to approach a conflict with calm and patience when you are relaxed than in the middle of a busy morning.
It seems the obvious thing to do but it is important to resolve conflicts in a healthy and appropriate way. While conflicts are inevitable, parents can use these situations as an opportunity to model conflict resolution skills to their children. If your kids witness your conflicts let them also witness how you resolve them respectfully. Kids can also see how conflicts can be a part of healthy relationships when they are resolved in the right way. Children can learn how communication can improve interpersonal skills.
Conflicts are bound to arise but sometimes, a compromise can solve it the best way. Take a step back to see the situation that is causing the argument and understand how important it is to you. Is it something you can let go or is it a deal-breaker?
Good communication is important in all relationships. When a conflict arises, instead of blaming your partner, express your feelings in a way that can communicate your feelings and be open to discussion. A good discussion is when both partners can voice their feelings, opinions and listen to each other’s points of view. It might take practice and some help but will help improve your relationship
If you feel like you and your spouse are always engaged in conflict it is worth visiting a counsellor together. A counsellor can guide you both and arm you with techniques for better conflict resolution. Not only will it improve your relationship as a couple but will positively impact your family and make your home a happier and safer place for your child
We all want our children to feel safe with their parents and in their homes. When parental conflict arises, it is important to always preserve our children’s sense of security. Modelling effective conflict resolution can help our children learn to navigate relationships and challenges. And do not hesitate to reach out for help when you need to. Consider it a gift to your family.