In a perfect world, we would never argue in front of our kids, however the key word in that sentence is “perfect, something that doesn’t exist even in the happiest homes.” Parents may say “we will never argue in front of the kids,” but sometimes even our best efforts still fall short. It won’t be a parent’s proudest moment, but it’s bound to happen. That doesn’t mean your kids are going to be damaged forever! Here are some ways for handling disputes with your significant other/co-parent and doing damage control if there is an argument in front of the kids.
1) When fighting, fight fair: What is the first thing we tell our kids about disputes? “Don’t call someone out of their name!” These rules apply to us as well. Make sure you stay focused on the problem and finding solutions, not name calling and or using words to demean the other person’s character. It models not only horrible communication skills to your children, but it shows them that it’s okay to disrespect your partner if you don’t agree, which is a huge ‘no no’ in any relationship.
2) If they see you fight, let them see you make up: This will allow your children to see that two people can agree to disagree, that everyone has a right to their opinion and that a difference of opinion does not translate into any love lost. It also displays to them that you can have a disagreement and still respect your significant other/co-parent.
3)Minimize the trauma: If your kids witness an overheated argument, let them know its ok for two people to disagree but apologize to them for not handling it the way you should have. Explain to children that you both respect one another and could have handled it better by listening and using our inside voices. It is important that this doesn’t become routine because your kids will then think this is how you handle things. If this isn’t working, you need to seek outside help.
When kids see you argue, it can allow them to see that you are not perfect. It gives opportunities for them to learn and understand that disagreements can be stepping-stones to solutions. Do not ignore that they can be sensitive to parental conflict, but make an effort to use effective conflict resolutions so that they too can model good communicating skills when they have a disagreement with someone.
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