Children exposed to their parents’ fighting can become anxious, depressed, or angry themselves. As a result, they sometimes have trouble focusing in school or have other problems like sleep disturbances. They can lash out at others, and when they grow up, they may have problems relating to others and have trouble forging healthy relationships.
UNLESS. . .they are exposed to their parents’ fighting calmly and fairly. It all depends on how parents conduct themselves when arguing. If they are hostile and mean, if they are physically or emotionally abusive, if they employ the silent treatment or gaslight, then there’s trouble for kids. Because kids learn how to manage conflict by seeing how their parents manage it. And when parents manage it badly, then kids will likely grow up to do the same.
So how do you manage conflict so you and your partner are satisfied, while still demonstrating how to argue in a healthy way in front of your children?
Let your high emotion dissipate.
When you are really angry, your emotions take over and you are not in the best position to have a discussion. Usually, this state lasts only a minute or two, so stop. Feel your emotions. Observe how you’re feeling before you say or do anything else. Let your emotions flow through your body. Then, when your high emotion has dissipated, you can be more present. More rational. More calm.
Listen with all your might.
You know how good it feels to have someone listen and really hear what you’re saying and understand what you mean. Now it’s your job to listen with all your might and all your focus. Once you are calm, you can pay attention to your partner and listen without interrupting. Really try to grasp what his grievance is. Really try to understand what he’s feeling. Then, when he’s finished, summarize what he said and ask if that’s what he meant. When you demonstrate patient listening, you show your partner how you’d like to be treated, and you show your children how to behave in a positive way.
When you acknowledge your partner’s feelings, you are showing that those feelings are important. You are showing empathy that creates a connection. That connection is an important touchstone in resolving conflict. The good news is, the more you practice empathy, the more you will be able to access it during times of heated conflict. And that’s when you need it the most, to really understand your partner.
Be a role model.
When your children see you behaving calmly, with empathy and understanding, they will have an idea of how to behave themselves. They will see that when both parties are arguing, they can come together and find a solution. They can move through conflict to come to a decision that both can accept. It’s a process that can only take place when both parents are calm and present. When they are, children are less likely to be traumatized and more likely to learn.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact