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Marital Conflict- How to Manage in Front of Children

Do you think you should argue in front of your children? 

The answer could be tricky. In some situations, it might be used as a teaching moment for your children. In others, the most important thing to do is to walk away. Recognizing when to do each is important to your child’s growth and development. 

Conflicts are part of any relationship. When in front of your children and you and your spouse have a conflict that is becoming intense, the best thing to do is to walk away from your children. You could also in a calm voice use words such as “It sounds like we are not going to agree, let’s continue this conversation at a later time.” Being this calm may be hard when your emotions start to rise. Another thing you can do is identify your feelings, and let everyone present know that you need a break. You can say “I feel angry, and I need a break.” This models to your children that using your words to express how you are feeling is okay to do. 

Children absorb so much from parents and how they treat others. If you feel that you might lose control, walk away, use your coping skills, and remain calm. You and your spouse can discuss the concerns at a later time when children are not present. This also shows your children that you have the ability to implement coping skills when you are recognizing signs of anger. 

If you and your spouse are fighting in front of your children frequently, this is a sign that you should seek support. Arguing in front of children has shown to have negative effects on their sleep, emotions, and relationships. It increases their anxiety and may lead to somatic feelings such as stomachaches and headaches. Children tend to mimic their parents’ behaviors. After being exposed to frequent fighting, you may then begin to see your children become more aggressive.  

When should you handle conflict in front of your children?

Children are going to have conflicts and they need to learn how to handle them. It is important for them to learn how to engage in appropriate conflict resolution. 

What is conflict resolution? As per Harvard’s Katie Shonk, conflict resolution can be defined as the  informal or formal process that two or more parties use to find a peaceful solution to their dispute. Parents can use their conflicts as an opportunity to teach their children how to work through challenges with others.  

Parents can  disagree with one another and work through difficult situations in front of children. Key points to remember include:  

  • Maintain a calm voice. Do not raise your voice or yell
  • Use appropriate language. Do not cursing or use name calling
  • Do not become physical. Hitting, throwing objects, etc. is never an appropriate way to express emotions
  • Do not become silent, using the silent treatment also is not effective as it does not teach children how to manage big feelings 
  • Remember that you are partners for a reason. You are on the same team, so support one another. 

If you or your spouse or partner are having difficulties with controlling your emotions, especially in front of your children, reach out to Behaved Brain Wellness Center for support in regulating your emotions. At Behaved Brain Wellness Center, we can also work with your children to help teach them how to manage their emotions, and improve their conflict resolution skills.