Marriage Conflict and Children
Marriage conflicts and relationship problems can have lasting effects on children. Learn how couples counseling can improve your relationship and your children’s outcomes.
It’s well-documented that marriage conflicts and relationship problems take a toll on your physical and emotional health. But what about your children? Studies demonstrate that relationship conflicts can impact children’s lives immediately and into adulthood. In this article, we’ll take a look at marriage problems, how marriage problems affect children, and how couples counseling can strengthen your relationship and your children’s experience with family.
Strong Relationships and Children’s Outcomes
Even in the face of disagreement, healthy, strong relationships foster children’s sense of safety and self-assurance. This is because healthy couples develop the communication skills to resolve disagreements and maintain a sense of stability at home. Your disagreements can teach children to accept life’s ebbs and flows with grace. Disagreements become productive, rather than aggressive, divisive, or discouraging. The key is in how you disagree and address conflict with your spouse.
Marriage problems might seem like a personal issue between you and your spouse, but children are highly perceptive to tension and quickly feel caught in the middle when parents fight. Conflict and anger increase children’s stress and anxiety, put them at risk for poor self-esteem, and erode future relationship skills.
Even when you aren’t fighting with your spouse in front of your children, marital conflict impacts them. Studies show that children absorb the emotional effects of passive-aggressiveness, simmering resentment, and “the silent treatment” between parents. In one study, children as young as three months old, whose parents were in high-conflict relationships, had a lower capacity for concentration and self-soothing than those whose parents were in healthy relationships.
When children feel safe and stable, their outcomes on everything from physical health to academic performance to their own future relationships improve. When you and your spouse adopt relationship skills to communicate, compromise, negotiate and manage conflict, skills you can gain from couples therapy, children benefit.
Tips for Heavy Conflict Resolution
There are lots of ways to deal with conflict, but particularly in front of children, the notion that there was a resolution to your disagreement is important. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when you feel tensions rising in front of your child.
- Listen: We tend to get defensive immediately. We think about what we want to say before our partner finishes their sentence! Active listening can help cool your head and allow you to respond calmly and civilly.
- Empathize: Again, before you get defensive about the situation, try putting yourself in your spouse’s shoes. Is there any truth to the situation? Is there a way you both can relate to the topic at hand?
- Watch Your Words and Actions: Being self-aware in front of your children is not only healthy for them, but it strengthens trust and kindness with your partner. Avoid name-calling, put-downs, or blatant criticisms. These aren’t productive behaviors in your relationship or for children to learn.
- Discuss the topic later: If there doesn’t seem to be a solution in sight, that’s OK! Take the topic offline for later. You might need to explore other angles or have a lengthier talk to come to a conclusion. Just because it starts at breakfast in front of the children, doesn’t mean it has to escalate and end there.
Resolve: Children benefit from seeing and feeling a positive resolution from your disagreement. Even if you table the discussion for later, make sure you and your spouse diffused the situation cordially and reestablish attention on your child. You might say something like, “OK, let’s chat about this later. It’s not a big deal right now.”
When Couples Counseling Can Help Your Family
There are benefits to seeking an experienced couples counselor at any time, from before getting married to establishing a new stepfamily. Your counselor is an objective listener that helps you assess your relationship and learn relationship skills you need to strengthen it.
However, if marriage problems may impact your children, couples therapy can be particularly helpful because better relationship skills can improve your children’s experience with family. The type of counseling you receive depends on your situation.
In one case, you may want to simply develop communication skills to make sure you have healthy disagreements with your partner.
In another, you may want to participate in discernment counseling to decide whether you and your spouse want to stay in the relationship. We often think that “staying married no matter what” is right for children. But, it is possible that a high-tension relationship resulting in divorce could be healthier. An experienced couples counselor can help you discern your unique situation.
Regardless of your marital status, finding qualified marriage help can help you restore healthy aspects to your relationship and increase your chances of raising emotionally and physically healthy children.
- Learn more about Couples Counseling Associates
- Find the right couples counselor
- Come to individual counseling first
- Check out our top recommended books about relationships and family
- Call 312-416-6191 to ask questions or to make an appointment with Couples Counseling Associates.
Our experienced associates can help you learn healthy conflict resolution skills:
- How can you empathize with your partner when tensions are high?
- What communication skills are most productive for a relationship?
- How can you deal with anger?
- How do you and your spouse get on the same page about parenting?
- What relationship skills are important for children to see at home?
More Resources for You and Your Partner
In our efforts to bring value to your life, or if you are not in the Chicago area, Couples Counseling Associates has developed a series of lessons that could have a major impact on effectively improving your relationship. We encourage you to dive into the series and discover how these resources can benefit you and your partner.
Remember, it’s the positive habits we develop that guarantee us success in all areas of our lives. Discover the seven healthy habits that improve relationships or get in touch with us to learn more about Couples Counseling Associates.
Click here to send us an email message or to make an appointment.