Parents’ arguing affects their children
Q, I have been married to my husband for nine years now and for the last two years we have not been getting along. Our arguments have escalated into screaming matches with curse words that my five- and seven-year-olds hear. They are starting to act out at home and in school, not listening to teachers or following directions. Do you think our arguing could be affecting them and, if so, what can I do?
The panelists agreed that the children’s exposure to the arguing definitely was having an effect, with panelist Pam Wallace emphasizing that the parents had to stop arguing in front of their children.
Qualifying that advice, panelist Erin Stalsitz said the parents can argue in front of their children, but not in the way that they are doing it: “If they can’t do it civilly, they need to figure out which arguments they can have at home in front of the kids, and which ones they can’t.”
“The mom asks what can she do,” panelist Mike Daniels said. “She can only control herself. If she gets frustrated and feels an argument coming on, she should politely excuse herself and walk away.” Daniels added that the parents need to agree that they want what is best for the children, and to stop arguing in front of them.
The children are already acting out, Wallace noted, and they know there is a problem: “It [arguing] is disrupting the children’s lives at home and the parents need to address it. They should sit down with the kids and apologize to them for arguing, and assure them it has nothing to do with anything they have done.“
While the best-case scenario would be that the parents could agree not to argue when the children are around, Stalsitz concluded that the parents’ behaviors have been going on for two years, and have become habitual. “It is going to be hard for the parents to solve this problem on their own,” she said.
Picking up on that observation, Wallace said the parents need to get counseling to help them work out their problems: “If they don’t get help to stop the arguments, the children will continue to be anxious and fearful, and their acting out will get worse.” Daniels suggested that the mother reach out to the school administration to see what resources might be available to help.
“Almost all elementary schools have student assistance programs,” he said. “The parents themselves also need professional help that at some point should include the children.” Another suggestion was that the parents contact their insurance company for the names of therapists who specialize in marital conflicts.
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Erin Stalsitz, casework supervisor, Lehigh County Children and Youth, and Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor.
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