When conflict happens, what happens to children?

by Rod Smith

Reduce your anxiety

Reduce your anxiety

When parents fight children are affected. Many parents have a “not-in-front-of-the-children” policy as if hiding their conflict, or storing it for later use, protects children.

Kindly consider:

1. Healthy conflict between spouses (the kind which leads to deeper love) is inevitable. It can teach children invaluable lessons.
2. Unhealthy conflict between spouses (the kind which desires to hurt or punish) is painful for everyone even if it does not occur “in front of the children.”
3. Children do best when parents work at reducing their own, individual, anxiety. Seeing mother NOT infected by dad’s anxiety, or seeing dad NOT being pulled into mother’s worries, helps children see that authentic love embraces necessary emotional separation. When both mother and father “go under” when mother worries, or both become debilitated by father’s anxiety, the children are emotionally abandoned; they “lose” two adults. No one is holding the ropes. When couples attain necessary emotional separation (growth in the Differentiation of Self) at least one is left standing when and while the other “goes under.” The children are less likely to experience abandonment.
4. Secrets (not the kind which hide “good” surprises) upset families even if (some of) the members of the families are unaware the secret exists.
5. Young children and babies are aware of stresses and strains in a marriage and, while the content of the conflict might not be understood or even heard, the anxiety the child (or baby) experiences and internalizes is unlikely to be easily shed or forgotten.
6. The barriers of protection children erect and serve a necessary purpose in childhood are often hindrances to intimacy and love later on. What serves well in childhood is often not helpful in adulthood.

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