Children can tune into parental conflict

Published 7:02 am Sunday, October 30, 2016

QUESTION: How alert are children to their parents’ conflicts?

ANSWER: Kids absorb everything and it affects them. Studies show that underlying tension over time can cause trauma in kids.

When parents shout at each other, it puts the kids’ nervous systems on high alert. They listen for the slammed car door, sense when dad is getting upset at the dinner table and mom is smoothing things over just to keep the peace. They hear the pointed disagreement after dinner, read your body posture and facial expressions, and know when you’re putting on the happy face.

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This nervous system trauma causes problems with focus, attention and behavior in school, disrupts sleep and leads to upset stomachs, frays emotions and causes anxiety. Actually those negative nervous system impacts are happening to the parents in the family, too.

Kids need to grow up in a home without tension. Unfortunately, in a majority of “good homes” where there’s an underlying tension, at least one parent is walking on eggshells; mom and dad are not really connecting: one spouse goes to the basement, the other stays upstairs.

The situation may not seem serious enough for counseling, but it is discouraging and it is not healthy for you or your kids. There are really helpful resources available and one of them is the Calm Couples Marriage Makeover CD set from “Celebrate Calm: Success Begins Here.” It’s worth listening to as a couple or listening to separately to talk about together. It will provide a structure to guide you through short, but good conversations almost every night.

As you become a more united team, it is likely that your children will have fewer meltdowns and power struggles.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child- raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out Calm Couples Marriage Makeover CDs (Kirk Martin) at the Parenting Resource Center Specialty Library (105 First Street S.E., Austin).