“My husband and I seem to be arguing so much these days and I can’t keep hiding it from our children. I hate arguing in front of them and I’m afraid of how it will impact them…”
All too often I’m asked if it’s “ok to argue with a partner” or “how much arguing is too much”. Every couple is different, but it’s necessary to point out that all healthy relationships have some level of conflict. To be perfectly honest, when a relationship has no conflict, that is often a sign there are likely some more significant concerns that need to be addressed. That being said, I expect for parents to have some conflict with each other and children will likely witness it from time to time. Keep in mind though, as with anything else, they will learn from what they see and hear.
Anger and frustration are healthy emotions and fundamental aspects of who we are, just as love, grief and happiness.
The irony, however, is that our closest relationships have the tendency to evoke both the greatest & the worst of these emotions unlike anything else. It’s what we do with those emotions that determine whether they’re healthy or not.
A few helpful tips:
- Set realistic expectations. Know that you are going to have conflict, just be mindful of how you compose yourself.
- Don’t hide conflict from you children. They need to witness healthy ways to have an argument, and more importantly see you make amends with each other.
- Fight fair. Character assassination is inappropriate in any healthy relationship. Don’t let your kids witness you insult, name call, or otherwise tear down each other.
- Abuse of any kind is never appropriate, especially for a child to witness. Let them see you take a time out if you feel things getting too heated.
- Keep the topics of contention relationally & developmentally appropriate. Don’t argue about your sex life or extended family members, etc. in earshot of the kids. If it’s not an appropriate topic, table it until it’s just you & your partner.
- Remember, you have the greatest opportunity to be a role model for your child!
Nick Hersey, LAMFT, LAPC
nhersey @ GROWcounseling.com
Photo Cred: Noella Choi