Effects of Fighting in Front of Kids
If you are fighting with your co-parent, spouse, or significant other in front of your children, it is taking a well-documented, scientifically proven toll on your children.
How Fighting Affects People
When you fight with someone, it takes a physical toll on your body, regardless of whether it’s an actual physical fight. This effect is the well-documented, scientifically proven fight or flight response that we all have as humans.
- Your body needs to take in more oxygen, so your rate of breathing increases, which can lead to feelings of choking or smothering, and pains or tightness in the chest.
- The blood supply to your head may temporarily decrease, which can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, or blurred vision.
- Your digestive system activity decreases, which can lead to dry mouth, nausea, and diarrhea.
- Your large muscle groups tense up, causing you to tremble or shake, or experience aches and pains or exhaustion hours after the fight.
How Fighting Affects Children
If you are fighting with your co-parent, spouse, or significant other in front of your children, it is taking a well-documented, scientifically proven toll on your children as well. Some effects of this unhealthy conflict are:
- An increase your child’s production of stress hormones. These hormones can stay in their body for hours, and cause disruptions to their sleep patterns, anxiety levels, and behavior.
- A disruption in your child’s fluid cognitive performance. Fluid cognitive performance is a fancy way to refer to his or her general intelligence level, ability to process information, pay attention, and solve problems.
- A change in how you child processes emotions differently, which may lead to problems with social relationships later in life.
- Possibility of increased depression, anxiety, and phobias for years to come.
- Possibility that your child develops an eating disorder.
- Increased risk of substance abuse.
Are You in a High-Conflict Situation?
Not all fighting is the same. The type of fights that trigger these potentially damaging physical effects to you and your children come in the form of high conflict situations like these:
- Heated and hostile disagreements
- Verbal insults and raised voices
- Physically aggressive fighting
- Fights that result in parents stonewalling one another or giving each other the silent treatment
- Any fight that threatens the stability of the family
Having constructive conflicts in front of your children, result in children learning better social skills, including cooperation and empathy for their peers. Constructive conflicts are disagreements where you still show support and affection for your co-parent, spouse, or significant other.
How to Fight Fair
While disagreements are a natural part of a relationship, it’s important for parents to model effective problem-solving strategies in front of their children. You and your co-parent should agree on how to structure disagreements by setting some ground rules. Below are some ground rules you can consider.
- Don’t fight in front of the kids.
- Don’t start a conversation that has the potential for conflict in front of the kids, save it for a time when the kids are out of the house.
- If a discussion is starting to get heated, take time out.
- Take turns to talk and validate the other parent’s feelings and perspective.
- Always be respectful and courteous, do not call one another names.
- Brainstorm solutions to your disagreement together.
- Make sure you articulate that the children are not the reason for the conflict or have any part of the issue between parents.
If you can’t fight fair, it’s time to seek help from a professional. Learning how to have constructive conflict is far crucial for the long-term health and well-being of you and your children.