Have you ever seen the look on those shocked little faces when you get into a heated discussion with your partner?
Oh, the feeling of guilt when you realise that you have done the unthinkable and argued in front of the kids. But don’t freak out; it happens! Someone loses their cool, things get said, and the kids are right there… listening. The question is, should we be thinking more about the consequences of our spats performed in front of our most absorbing audience?
The impact of your arguments on your kids is going to be different depending on what kind of fighting we are talking about.
If it is a bit of bickering over whose turn it is to boil the kettle, then they are unlikely to have a lasting memory. But if it is regular shouting at each other until you are both red in the face then, of course, the consequences could have an effect.
Is it healthy to argue in front of your kids?
Some researchers say that arguing in front of your children is actually healthy as it shows them how to handle conflict. They might struggle to deal with their own conflicts later in life if they have not seen their own parents setting the example. But if your kids do witness a war of words it is important that they also see the resolution and understand that you are happy again. If the kids don’t see their parents make up after a fight then this can leave them confused and worried. It can be beneficial for children to see that just because people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love or respect each other.
At the extreme end of the spectrum, researchers have found arguing can effect a child’s brain. A study by a UK university earlier this year found arguing in front of your kids can have lasting effects. The University of East Anglia scanned the brains of 58 teenagers between the ages of 17 and 19 to look at changes to the grey matter. The teens who had experienced ‘mild to moderate’ family problems in their younger years had a smaller cerebellum. This part of the brain is linked to learning, stress regulation and sensory-motor control. A small cerebellum may indicate an increased risk of psychiatric problems later in life, according to the researchers.
Keeping it under wraps
The key to providing a happier environment for your kids is to keep your fighting to a minimum and operating with some self-control when you do. Even babies are aware of raised voices and angry tones so think before you start to squabble. Arguments happen but it is how you deal with them and their aftermath that really matter. Showing your children that you are happy and loving to one another is the best example you can set for them.
Tips for handling arguments in front of your kids
- Avoid name calling – Keep it clean and don’t use horrible words to describe your partner in the heat of an argument.
- Don’t argue about them – You shouldn’t fight about your kids in front of them. This could cause upset and confusion for your child. Hold back on these discussions for when they are out of earshot.
- Think about your tone – You should avoid raising your voice or becoming hysterical with your partner during an argument – especially when your kids are listening. If you are hot-headed then give yourself time out from the situation and try to resolve it later.
- Show your children that you are happy again – After you have resolved the argument then show your kids you and your partner are a team once again. Displays of affection and laughter can restore balance in your children’s minds.
- Speak to your kids afterwards – Each of you should spend some time with your kids to talk them through the argument. It could be to explain your behaviour and how you have made up afterwards. Ask them how they are feeling to check they are okay.