Is There Such a Thing as a Good Fight?

fiDear Mr. Dad: My husband and I are happily married, but every once in a while we have a huge argument. There’s no violence, of course, but there is plenty of yelling and door slamming and some occasional name calling. He and I usually recover pretty quickly, but I’m concerned about the effect that our fighting might be having on our kids, who are 7 and 10. Should we be worried or will the kids get used to it?

Yes, you should be worried, and No, the kids won’t get used to it. Conflict and disagreements are a normal part of almost any relationship, but what you’re describing goes far beyond “normal.” It’s great that you and your husband aren’t violent towards each other. But research suggests that you may still be doing some serious harm to your children.

Children need to feel safe and secure in their home. However, when they see their parents engage in openly hostile conflict, they feel the exact opposite of safe and secure. Children in high-conflict homes have more emotional problems, are more aggressive, and are more likely to be depressed and/or anxious. The fear and confusion they feel as a result of long-term exposure to the stress and insecurity caused by their parents’ fighting can cause permanent damage to children’s brain, negatively affecting their memory and cognitive function and in some cases, leaving them with symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress. In can also take a toll on their physical health, leaving them more likely to get sick. And again, they don’t get used to it. Ever. In fact, over time, children become sensitive to the fighting and less resilient.
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Expecting Anxiety

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m 34 and my wife is just a few weeks away from giving birth to our first baby. I’m excited about becoming a dad, but my anxiety levels over the past week have been through the roof and sometimes I feel like I’m having a heart attack. On top of my shortness of breath and dizziness, I’m also breaking out in hives. I’ve seen my doctor about this, but he has yet to solve my problem. My wife has been very supportive, but I hate feeling so helpless when she’s the one who has to give birth. What can I do to be normal again?

A: Good news: as unpleasant and frightening as your symptoms are, what you’re going through is actually perfectly normal. There’s no question that your wife’s physical experience of pregnancy is a lot more intense than yours. But psychologically, the two of you are going through pretty much the same thing. I sometimes think that the above-the-neck part of the pregnancy might even be more profound for men than it is for women. Women have far stronger social networks than men do and they’ve got mothers, sisters, aunts, and female friends to talk with about their fears, worries, and concerns. Men tend not to want to admit to anyone else (sometimes even ourselves, and especially not our spouse) that we’re scared half to death of the way our life is going to be turned upside down and inside out.

Those fears—and the accompanying anxiety—make perfect sense. If you’re like most first-time expectant dads, you have no idea how your life is going to change. Sure, everyone you know has probably told you that “life’s never going to be the same.” True, but have you ever wondered what that means? One of my favorite quotes came from a woman who was asked to describe the way everyone told her that parenthood was going to be like and the way it actually turned out to be. “It’s like the difference between watching a tornado on TV,” she said, “and having one tear the roof off your house.” She’s right, and there’s nothing you can do to prepare 100% for your little tornado.
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The Only Parenting Technique You’ll Ever Need

David Vienna, author of Calm the F*ck Down.
Topic:
Could this be the only parenting technique you’ll ever need?
Issues: A variety of scenarious that make parents anxious–and down-to-earth reassurance and guidance on how to relax and enjoy the moment.

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