As with everything else you do as a parent, how, where and when you argue with your partner impacts your children. Of course, disagreements aren’t planned and often don’t happen behind closed doors, when the kids are out of the house, or asleep. So, how do you handle it when your children see, or hear, conflict in your relationship?
When we talk about conflict, I’m not talking about a disagreement over whose turn it is to take out the trash. I’m referring to hostility that’s not easily resolved in the moment. E. Mark Cummings, a psychologist at Notre Dame University, has done extensive research and writing about the impact of marital conflict on kids. He believes that “conflict is a normal part of everyday experience, so it’s not whether parents fight that is important. It’s how the conflict is expressed and resolved, and especially how it makes children feel that has important consequences for children.” Kids sense how parents are with one another, even when conflict is not overt. They register long term, unexpressed resentment and know, on some level, that something is wrong. Cummings’ found that “kids can tell the difference between a resolution that’s been forced versus one that’s resolved with positive emotion, and it matters.”
It is healthy for children to witness their parents fighting because conflict is a normal part of any couple´s relationship. But, children shouldn’t be exposed to serious pàrental discord, especially on a regular basis. So keep these things in mind, next time conflict arises at home:
Ultimately, the most important thing to keep in mind is that home should be a place where kids feel safe and secure. Handling conflict in a healthy way is not only the best thing for your children, it also helps build a solid foundation for your relationship.