When kids witness their parents butting heads or engaging in a yelling match, they may be confused, scared or even worried that the family is headed for divorce. From explaining the difference between having a disagreement and an argument, to letting them know that it doesn’t mean you don’t love each other, here’s how to explain to your kids why parents fight.
Distinguishing a disagreement from an argument
Explain that a disagreement is when you and your partner do not hold the same opinion on a topic, while an argument is a fight using words. Let your children know that not every discussion is an argument or a red flag for divorce. Parents sometimes have to talk about things in order to make decisions that affect the family, even when the topic turns heated.
>> Discover more tips on teaching kids about conflict resolution
Reassure your kids that you still love each other
Assure your children that sometimes when parents fight, it is because they had a stressful day, are letting off steam or just lose their cool like everyone does once in a while. But this does not mean that you and your partner do not love each other.
Explain that sometimes letting out your feelings is healthier than keeping them bottled up inside and that now that you and your partner understand what the other is feeling, you can work together and form an even stronger relationship.
Let your kids know it is not their fault
Especially if a fight is about your child, your youngster may feel guilty or responsible for your argument. Comfort your kiddo and let him know that it is not his fault and that grownups are responsible for their own words and actions, regardless of the topic.
Be sure to fight fair in front of your kids
If a fight occurs in front of your kids, be sure to fight fair. Do not engage in blaming or name calling, and be sure to table any topics that are not age-appropriate for your brood.
So long as you fight fair, some experts feel that it teaches kids to voice an opinion in a positive way, giving him higher self esteem and the confidence of knowing that even when met with challenges, that you, your partner and your children can make it through as a family.
In spite of our best efforts, arguments might bring out the worst in us. If you owe someone an apology in the aftermath of a disagreement, make sure your children see you tendering it. Modeling humility and sincere apologies to our children are some of the best things we can teach them about healthy relationship habits.
>> Learn more on how to fight fair in front of your kids
Present a united parenting front
Having to explain to your kids why parents fight may be the toughest part of the situation. But regardless of the topic, one of the key tips for parents is that after things have settled down, it’s important to talk to your kids as a united parenting front.
Once the temperatures have cooled, “[s]peak privately to review how a situation was handled,” explains Terrence Alspaugh, LCPC, familysolutionsofmaryland.com, “and if you both agree that the situation could have been managed differently, you will be a united front when you return to your kids to give additional instruction, consequences or even an apology.” This will give your kids the reassurance that they need that even if Mom and Dad had a fight, that you are still a family.