Do you know the impact your relationship has on your children?
If you have children you are probably aware of and experience the saying “children are like sponges absorbing the world around them?” Well, this is true. Whether we like it or not, they are always watching us, everything we do and taking it all in. Again, if you have children, as they start to grow up, I am sure you have experienced them saying, what you say, using your exact words and tone as an example.
When it comes to the relationship between their parents, any tension, disagreements or arguments, never go unnoticed or unheard. Children are directly affected by the way the parents treat each other. If there is any tension, no matter how much we cover it up, they can almost always sense it.
Do you remember a time from your childhood when your parents got so involved in their argument that they forgot you were actually in the same room? Now as parents, you may have also gotten so involved in a discussion with your partner that you forgot about the little ones in your house…
Our children’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development is greatly influenced by our family dynamics. According to some studies done in the UK, “Marital conflict, divorce or separation: most of the negative effects are caused by disruption of parenting. The parents’ ability to cope with the changes may be reflected in the child’s ability to cope.”
Whether we nag at each other or act grumpy and angry, these patterns directly impact our kids and their future relationships as they more often than not unconsciously mimic these when they reach adulthood. This is what they have experienced in their formative years and have developed their coping mechanisms to deal with these experiences.
Remember that children are just children. Their brain and mind have not developed into an adult. Too many adults expect children to think and behave like an adult. They live in a different world that most of us have forgotten.
Do you argue in front of your children? Here are some of the negative effects on your children if you constantly do so:
- Emotional problems– according to clinical psychologist, Lisa Firestone, Ph.D.in Psychology Today, children often feel they must take care of the emotional needs of parents and this pressure can leave a child feeling depressed and stressed.
- Sleep disturbances– children in high-conflict homes battle with restless sleep and daytime sleepiness.
- Low self-esteem– when parents get caught up in their relationship struggles, they often neglect their child’s emotional issues and the need for extra attention.
- Feelings of Guilt– kids internalize their family problems and would often blame themselves especially when they are involved in the argument.
- Anxiety– when there is chaos and unpredictability in the family environment, kid’s don’t feel safe. This can make them feel helpless and anxious in life..
When it comes to a point where the parents no longer value each other and decide to separate, the child may feel that their world is falling apart. The level of distress depends on the child’s age, how their parents separated and the support they are getting. Here are some of the effects on children if parents undergo divorce or separation:
- Feelings of fear or abandonment– the child may think if one parent can go then the other can probably do the same.
- Angry at one or both parents
- Feelings of guilt that they might have caused the separation.
- They may feel lost– separation may mean losing your home or your way of life
- Torn between both parents.
Whatever has gone wrong in the relationship, the parents still have a very important role in their child’s life. Parents should know the short or long term effects on their children so that they will be able to provide the protection and support that the kids deserve. By doing this, you are giving them a better chance to have a good life. Good quality parenting, the stability of the parent’s relationship after separation, and social support for the child from extended family and friends are some of the key factors that limit negative effects on children.
Children react very differently to separation and divorce. Even after an initial period of chaos and instability, the children can adjust and look at the bright side of things if the parents maintain good relations and if they are being nurtured to be able to feel safe and secure. Carrying bitterness and anger is likely to damage the kids much more than the divorce/separation itself. In order to prevent this, invest in yourself and talk about your feelings with someone you trust (preferably outside the family) or with a professional who isn’t biased so you can totally express what your issues are.
When children are involved in relationship issues, I always have a mantra to “Work toward the best possible relationship with your partner, whether or not you are together”. When there is emotional stability with their parents, children will feel secure and you may be surprised how quickly they adapt.