It’s not a question of whether parents fight or not, but of HOW parents fight that has an impact on children. In fact, teaching children to fight fair might even have a positive impact. However, the reverse is also true. When children see their parents fight unfairly with one another, the harm can be life-long.
Conflict Is Normal
Conflict is normal. It’s a part of life. No couple, no parent-child relationship is without conflict. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to take conflict and use it to work toward a mutual resolution.
Too many people are programmed with a desire to ‘win’ the fight. The mind-set of “winning” is not always the best way to resolve any conflict. In fact, it can make it very difficult to do so. The need to win is actually a destructive personality trait.
Conflict is a mismatch of needs, wants, and/or desires. Resolving conflict can be healthy when the parties work together to resolve the conflict. It can also be a wonderful lesson for children to learn. Unfortunately, depending on the conflict itself, a resolution may be difficult to resolve.
Combat Is Not Normal
When parents are at war, children are caught in the crossfire. Children who witness habitual parental combat lose the ability to deal with their own emotions. As they witness their parents try to destroy one another, they do not know how to resolve their own conflicts. Children who routinely see anger eventually become unable to identify emotions in others. Parental fights actually desensitize children to their own emotions. The inability to recognize their own emotions puts children at greater risk for anxiety and depression.
Stress Becomes Distress
Parental fights cause their children stress. It is not all that surprising if you think about it. Have you ever witnessed people fighting, perhaps even your own parents? It is uncomfortable at best.
Children who are chronically exposed to parental discord are typically stressed. Over time, stress puts children in distress. As they grow up their distressed state may lead to them reaching for drugs, alcohol, or other risky behaviors to deal with their feelings. Children can have physical responses such as elevated heart rates as their parents fight. The systemic stress can lead to physical sickness and emotional turmoil.
Parents typically never intentionally set out to harm their children. However, when most children are torn when they hear the fighting going on. If you notice questionable behavior with your teens as a result of fights that occur in your home, professional help could be very effective. Teenagers can learn to avoid repeating their parents’ patterns by learning how to manage conflicts.