It is normal for two committed adults in love with each other to argue, some might say healthy. But when it becomes bitter and nasty and fought out in front of children, it can be devastating.
The findings of a new study reported in a book titled, “Parental Conflict: Outcomes and Interventions for Children and Families” has shed light on the physical, emotional and psychological impact of domestic disputes on children.
“We’ve known for a long time that fighting in front of your children causes anxiety, depression and physical symptoms,” says relationship expert Mary Jo Rapini. A licensed psychotherapist, Rapini stresses the clues children present indicating stress. “If you watch their eyes you can kind of gauge when it’s becoming too much, and will sometimes cry and beg you to stop, or run to their rooms. Those are all warning signs.”
The study found that exposure to family feuds can lead to headaches, stomach pains and reduced growth. Children do best when they witness a peaceful resolution with reassurances of positive commitment.
“Arguing mildly in front of your child is actually helpful to your kid,” says Rapini. “It teaches them that two people who love each other can disagree. Happy couples fight as much as unhappy couples, but happy couples have learned anger management and conflict resolution. In fact, if you go to pre-marital counseling it’s the number one thing they teach you.”
The research finds that a child who watches his parents argue and then sees them settle their differences learns that difficult situations can be resolved.