The last thing any parent wants to do is cause harm to their children. Unfortunately, the stresses of everyday life can have unforeseen effects on kids. It’s one thing to have a bad day at work or feel a little aggravation from heavy traffic, but engaging in conflict with a spouse at home can fill children with anxiety and fear. Not only that, children that constantly witness their parents’ fighting are more likely to suffer a lifetime of ill-effects. Luckily, there are ways to care for your children and the health of your marriage all at the same time.
Teach them healthy conflict resolution.
Protecting children from violence or emotional abuse within the home is one thing, but kids begin learning social skills at home. For this reason, a couple suffering from marital issues shouldn’t shield their children from conflict, but should instead allow them to see how to best handle that conflict.
Reduce your child’s anxiety.
Children are very in tune with the emotions of those around them. This is especially true in the close quarters of a family home where they may also witness the snide remarks or constant bickering. The only way to reduce the anxiety that this empathy can cause in your children is to learn how to deal with conflict in healthier ways.
Respect their rights to learning.
Finding compromise during an argument, or at least working actively toward a resolution, teaches young children how to approach such situations as adults. With the help of a licensed marriage counselor, you and your spouse can learn how to resolve problems through what you say, the feelings you show, and the behavior you exhibit.
Do not ignore your children or the problem.
Without the proper tools, parents tend to either emotionally withdraw from their children because of marital issues or ignore the issues entirely. Avoidance only serves to exacerbate problems and ignoring your children for the sake of your own emotional distress is never a healthy option.
Engage in constructive conflict.
Learning how to problem-solve as a team, whether it be from books, parenting classes, or therapy, makes couples better role-models for their kids. Parents need to approach these situations in a constructive manner with empathy and understanding instead of jumping into opposition.
Protect everyone’s health.
In addition to the emotional effects of a strained marriage on the children, it has the potential to cause physical harm to everyone in the home. Namely, stress has been shown to weaken the immune system which can lead to more illness and slower healing from illness or injury. Children are also more likely to engage in harmful habits.
Avoid causing loyalty conflicts.
Finding healthy ways to handle the stressors of marriage and child-rearing makes couples less likely to use their children against one another. No child should ever be brought into an argument and doing so will only lead to confusion and future resentment from the child.
Remember that they feel responsible.
Kids see and hear a lot more than most parents expect and they will often associate marital issues with something they have done wrong. For example, if an issue may at all be about them, such as money troubles, the children will internalize this and suffer the ill-effects of those feelings.
Tend to your own emotional needs.
Tending to your emotional needs in no way means you should hide from your children, but it is important to engage in self-care. Marriage counselors have tools one can use to learn how to balance their own needs with those of their children and family.
Don’t allow obligation to cloud your judgment.
If you and your spouse have tried, but failed, to resolve your marital issues, you should not be fooled into thinking that staying together is better for the kids. High tension within a home causes children to suffer from both mental and emotional pain when their parents constantly argue. A child’s well-being is more important than avoiding a divorce.
In other words, the children are important to the both of you, so keep in mind that learning how to handle conflict within your marriage is vital to their health and well-being.