When children head back to school this year, they should not be carrying emotional baggage from home.
When we worry about how our children will handle school- what they will face and how they will cope, we often overlook the impact of marital strife on their physical, emotional and intellectual functioning.
It is difficult to feel confident, curious or open to new school friends or ideas when you are a young person weighed down by exposure to adult conflict and issues.
While we know that the impact of most traumatic events on children can be reduced if parents remain calm & learn to manager their own feelings, marital strife poses a bigger challenge. In the case of chronic marital strife, the very people who are supposed to offer safety are the ones creating the danger!
Don’t All Couples Fight?
Yes, in fact if a child never saw any discord or disagreement, he/she would have no model for conflict resolution or regulating a broad range of emotions.
Marital strife that creates a potential emotional crisis for a child of any age is a different animal altogether. It involves expressions of anger that can include chronic but subtle verbal abuse, the silent treatment, bitter fighting and at the extreme, domestic violence that warrants a 911 call.
Unregulated marital discord demands too much of children and teens.
- Some children run in to rescue the parents and reduce the tension by engaging either or both parents in something fun, interesting, or attention getting.
Do they need this extra job as they face new appropriate childhood challenges?
- Some children will draw the fire to themselves (consciously or unconsciously) by misbehaving or acting out in order to shift the emotional tone.
Is this a learned pattern of survival we want a youngster to take with them in life?
- Older children will learn to escape into their rooms, their phones, or their computers- sadly some may learn to escape into drugs and alcohol.
In their necessary avoidance they tragically lose not only the connection with their parents, but a world of knowledge, relationships and …