At times, it is only natural for us to not see eye to eye with our partner or spouse. We have different values and opinions instilled within us. We may have different feelings, and we may communicate these feelings in different ways. However, the way we settle our disagreements may need a revamp once we have our children observing.
Many believe that children remain unaffected, resilient, or completely unaware of their surroundings. While this common belief may hold truthful in some areas, it is proven that the way we communicate with our significant other directly effects our children. Children are sponges; they absorb what they observe. We may think that because of their lack of experience that they simply “do not know,” or “do not understand.” But what we need to understand as adults is that children are even more powerful energy vessels than we are. Because of their lack of experience, they feed off energy, an instinctual trait.
According to Healthling, a 2010 study suggested that by 6 months old, babies exhibit stress reactions to scowling or angry facial expressions. Babies exposed to conflict can have increased heart rates, which, in turn, initiates a stress hormone response.
Children may not be old enough to understand verbal language, but volume, tone and facial expressions can have a direct, negative impact on them. Children who are subject to an environment of recurring hostility can adopt a sense of instability. A child may start to feel insecure, suffer from anxiety and/or depression, PTSD, and develop behavioral problems. Physical responses may occur in which our children develop sleep disturbances, headaches, or even stomach issues all resulting from the less-than-ideal energy absorbed in the home.
On the contrary, some agree arguing may be beneficial to our children. We all may have heard the common phrase, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” According to Parents, there is a healthy way to argue in front of your children. Many experts acknowledge fighting is also a form of normal communication, so it’s not that you argue—it’s how you argue.
Arguments must be controlled in front of children. This will help keep their exposure to stress at a minimal. Each child is different and interprets conflict differently, so the way we argue may have to vary. In addition to never involving a child, certain aspects, such as finger-pointing, and name-calling must never occur.
The most important “characteristic” of our fights are the resolutions. A child must never witness an argument remain unsettled. In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, middle school children who witness parents come to a warm resolution flourish with emotional security and better coping skills. By expressing warmth and empathy towards one another while they argue, parents offer their children the ability to better cooperate, express empathy for their peers, and exhibit enhanced social skills.
We must be mindful that we are teaching our children how to build and sustain relationships, as well as how those relationships are supposed to be and feel. We possess the ability to allow children to embrace arguments as part of family life and life in general. Our disagreements can develop necessary life tools such as conflict resolution and effective communication skills, so long as we actively focus on keeping them healthy.