Parental Conflict and how it can be harming your Child

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If you wish to understand how much harm parental conflict, aggressive behavior in parents, arguments in the family or parents fighting can cause to a child, here’s a real-life anecdote to read:

“Radha was scolded by her teacher for trying to open her tiffin box while the class was going on. She was unable to concentrate on the class work. She felt like crying. How can she tell her teacher that she was very hungry, when it was just the first period? Being just of age seven, her little mind was confused with so many questions. Why her parents fight over silly things? Why is there a parental conflict in her house always? Why the other person can’t eat burnt bread (she could have eaten it very well) when all of them were hungry?

Yes, previous night also Radha’s parents had a severe argument over her mom serving burnt bread on the dinner table. In a fit of the argument dad threw all the foods on the floor and mom then put it all in the dustbin. All of them slept empty stomach. Radha was very afraid, she was hungry, she wanted to tell mom and dad not to throw food, she wanted to have it but couldn’t. Instead she went to her bed, shivering with fear and crying. In the morning while coming to school she had only a glass of milk, the situation at home was so tense that she couldn’t ask her mom for food.

Before she left for school, she saw no one was talking to each other in her family; all were just getting prepared for their office and doing other regular chores silently. That silence was bothering her more, even after coming to school, as she had no idea on how to solve this matter.”

The above story of Radha (name changed) is a real-life case example recorded to show how argument-turned-fight between parents puts the child through most suffering, both physically and emotionally.

Why exposing children to parental conflict is a bad idea

In one of the articles by Early Intervention Foundation (EIF, 2016), co-reported by University of Sussex, it was stated that parental conflict potently impacts the early development of the child, her mental health, overall personality and future lives. Parents undoubtedly wish to provide their children with all the love they need, but the conflicting message delivered when the parents are arguing or showing aggressive behaviour (verbal, non-verbal or both) can leave children overwhelmed.

What parental conflict does to a child

  • Health issues– Unhealthy sleeping  and eating pattern; headache; digestion problem
  • Poor concentration– Both in studies or any other activities
  • Emotional distress- Social apathy; anxious and fearful; depressive mood; insecure feeling
  • Low self esteem– Poor communication skills; unable to express self; constant feeling of shame, guilt, hopelessness, helplessness and unworthiness
  • Aggression– Child picks up the aggressive behaviour from her parent and demonstrates the same personality in future

Warning signs that Parental Conflict is Affecting the Child:

  • Child starts crying when parents are arguing
  • Becomes insecure and more clingy to demand attention
  • Gets very quite on experiencing parental conflict
  • Mostly scared, nervous and unable to express emotions
  • Unable to socialize with others or make friends
  • Lacks interest in studies and other activities that he/ she earlier use to enjoy
  • Reporting physical discomfort often, especially after parental conflict episodes
  • Showing temper tantrums or often similar kind of aggressive behaviour (verbal or non-verbal) in schools or other social places
  • Overwhelmed with feeling of guilt and shame; often blaming self for parental conflict
  • Agitated and insecure; showing symptoms of depression

How can parents deal with it

  • While living together, husband and wife will evidently differ on various circumstances, but it is equally important to make those little differences not influence your child’s healthy growing.
  • It is always better to resolve the problems in constructive ways so that it never makes your child feel uncomfortable.
  • Avoid being aggressive even in the face of all odds.
  • Try not to utter abusive words when any domestic conflict arises.
  • During the moments of disagreement try not to respond immediately; rather review the matter, retrospect and then reciprocate to resolve and reconcile.

Children learn to value and respect relations by seeing their parents only; hence, it becomes imperative for parents to manage their family bonds and relationships even more responsibly.