Arguing in Front of the Kids? Not as Bad as It Sounds

Dear Mr. Dad: Like a lot of couples these days, my wife and I are going through some tough times. We argue about everything–but especially money. How can we work through these issues without stressing out the kids?

A: As the economy continues to stagnate and families find themselves having to adjust to a very different life than the one they’d planned, this is a question I get more and more often. The truth is that all couples go through some tough times at various points. And, as much as we’d like to pretend our adult troubles aren’t affecting our kids, we’re dead wrong. Kids have a much better idea of what’s going on than we give them credit for, and they definitely feel the stress and uncertainty that come with knowing that their parents are less than completely happy with each other.
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Fighting in front of the kids

Dear Mr. Dad: My wife and I have a good marriage, but once in a while we get into a yelling match that makes me glad we don’t live in an apartment! There’s never any physical contact, neither of us misses the chance to slam a door or kick the furniture to make a point. We know we’re just venting and we always make up just fine afterwards, but it’s the kids I worry about. Is it doing them any harm to see their parents fight? If so, how can we break the habit?

A: The short answer is, yes, living in a high-conflict home may be doing some short- or long-term damage to your children. According to a recent joint study by the Universities of Rochester and Notre Dame, children who see their parents in angry conflict on a regular basis are more likely to feel negative emotions and stress and to develop long-lasting, negative impressions of marriage and family life. Rather than becoming accustomed to the hostility, children actually become more sensitive to it and less resilient as time goes by.
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