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Effects of Fighting in Front of Kids

Parents fighting in front of kids can have serious impacts on a child’s mental and physical well-being if the arguments are high conflict.

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.
Fighting in front of your children can lead to increased depression

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 toll on your kids’ mental and physical state as well. Some effects of fighting in front of children include:

  • An increase in your child’s production of stress hormones. These hormones can stay in your child’s 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 your child processes emotions differently, which may lead to problems with social relationships later in life.
  • The possibility of increased depression, anxiety, and phobias for years to come.
  • The possibility that your child develops an eating disorder.
  • Increased risk of substance abuse.
Not all fighting is the same

Are you in a high-conflict situation?

Not all fighting is the same. The types of fights that trigger these potentially damaging physical impacts to you and your children come in the form of high conflict situations such as the following:

  • 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 results in kids learning better social skills, including cooperation and empathy for their peers. Constructive conflicts are disagreements where you still show respect and/or support for your co-parent, spouse, or significant other.

Don’t fight in front of the kids

How to fight fair

While disagreements are a natural part of any 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 parameters you should consider regarding arguments:

  • Don’t fight in front of the kids.
  • Don’t start a conversation that has the potential for conflict in front of the kids.
  • If a discussion is starting to get heated, take a 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.
  • If you do argue in front of the kids, make sure you articulate that the children are not the reason for the conflict, and they do not have any part in 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 crucial for the long-term health and well-being of you and your children. For co-parents, the use of a co-parenting communication service can be a huge help. TalkingParents offers several communication methods for co-parents to discuss and resolve conflicts in an organized, documented fashion.

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