Do you argue in front of your kids? Do they see you make up?

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

I’m speaking on BBC Radio Scotland about how parents’ arguments really affect their children.

It is normal for parents to argue, but the way these disagreements affect children varies greatly.

We are discussing what parents and carers can do to limit the harm caused by their rows because what happens at home really does affect children’s long-term mental health and development.

But it is not only the relationship between the parent and child that is important.

How parents get on with each other also plays a big role in a child’s wellbeing, with the potential to affect everything from mental health to academic success and future relationships.

Minor rows and disagreements is all part of normal family life but when does it start to get nasty, out of control and need changing?

In most cases, arguments will have little or no negative effects for children.

But when parents shout and are angry with each other, when they consistently withdraw or give each other the “silent treatment”, problems can sometimes arise.

UK and international research conducted over several decades through observations in the home, long-term follow up work and experimental studies, suggests that from as young as six months, children exposed to conflict may have increased heart rates and stress hormone responses.

Infants, children and adolescents can show signs of disrupted early brain development, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, conduct disorder and other serious problems as a result of living with severe or chronic inter-parental conflict.

My Top Tips For Handling Conflict, Rows and Arguments.

  • Put RESPECT at the top of your intention.
  • Strive to stay positive.
  • Listen with the intent to understand.
  • Focus on cooperation instead of control.
  • Look for solutions – not blame.
  • Look for compromise – not winning.
  • Ask open ended questions.
  • Ask for reasons – e.g. I’d like to hear more about your idea, what else can you tell me about it?”
  • Model flexibility.
  • Model tolerance & patience.
  • Strike a deal and look for compromise.
  • Keep the bigger picture, long term relationship you want with your partner or child. – Ask yourself ‘Is what I’m going to say now going to bring me closer to, or further away from the relationship I want with my partner’ – This will help focus you on what’s important.
  • Don’t be afraid to rewind: If you’ve started down the conflict path, pause and rewind: “Arguing is not getting us anywhere. Let’s take a break, think and try again when we are ALL cooled off.” Let’s ‘Strike When The Iron Is Cold’
  • Go out to a public place for a coffee to talk about your finances, step children, teenager or your relationship. It’s a good idea to get away from the familiarity of your home as it can be ‘charged’ and difficult to not be interrupted.
  • Hold Family Meetings: Set a time aside each week where you can respectfully discuss issues that are in disagreement. This is also a time where everyone can practice talking about niggles … Read more about My Family Talk Time -> LINK
  • Aim to  set limits with respect, kindness and firmness in mind.
  • Have a plan for argument related meltdowns.
  • Strengthen your connection. Go out for a meal, cinema trip or down the pub for ‘We’ Time. Raising kids is exhausting, tiring & overwhelming at time – keep the glow with your partner by keeping your relationship healthy, full of talking and laughing too. It’s important for your children to see that side to your relationship to.
  • You are a Blueprint for how your children learn about conflicts, disagreements & differences. Model the behaviour you want them to learn. They are looking, listening and learning from you ALL the time.

Read more from BBC News here

Watch my Quick Win Videos on ‘Handling Conflict, Rows & Disagreements’ here

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