Family Conflict and Children

Family conflict, disagreements and arguments are a normal part of family life.  They happen and children do get exposed to them.

There are many factors that will determine if these conflictual moments will negatively affect the children including, their severity, frequency and if they are eventually resolved and how this happens.

If your children are witnessing and living with continuous parental and family conflict, then there is a pretty good chance that this situation might be affecting them in various ways. This applies both to children whose parents are divorced but still engaged in conflict as well as cohabiting parents.

You are your child’s expert so you will know best if he/she is experiencing any of the following, at what intensity and how frequently. If any of the changes below have been going on for more than a few weeks then you might need to seek some support in dealing with the situation.

The sooner the better.

  • Changes in general behaviour: leaning more towards anger-related behaviour.  This is perhaps the most common, most noticeable change and can include but not limited to aggression and disruptive behaviour. Children often lack the vocabulary to express their stress and lack of adequate support during this time, the only way they know how to tell you that something is a bit off is through their actions and behaviour.  These changes may be cause trouble at school and may affect performance
  • Changes in sleep and feeding patterns:  child is finding it difficult to fall sleep or remain asleep through the night whereas this was not the case before
  • Psychosomatic symptoms: Your child maybe suffering from physical pain which has no apparent medical basis. The pain is very real to him. This could be caused by the stressful situation in which they live
  • Regression (mostly found in younger children):  Your child is exhibiting behaviour more consistent with her younger self; behaviours that they had outgrown but have now been reverted back to.  This may include bed wetting, inability to perform actions once achieved e.g. tying their laces for instance hence requiring and seeking more parental care and attention
  • Withdrawal and/or isolation: Where your child is no longer interested in things that he used to enjoy doing or participating in.  This sort of behaviour can be found in age group including infants.  Teenagers are more prone to self-isolation, preferring to spend more and more time on their own
  • Increased fears such as fear of the dark or might become very clingy towards one parent for fear of losing him or her too (in the case of divorce)

If you see any of the above changes in your child, then please take note and deal with it as soon as possible either by seeking professional help or by acquiring skills and techniques that will help you help them cope.  Be the person who provides them with a container for their worries and anxieties

Try the following too:

  • Acknowledge the conflicts  and that you understand that it’s a hard situation for them to deal with
  • Speak with them and answer their questions as much as possible.  This can go a long way in helping them deal with the situation
  • Provide them with a conflict free environment as often and as soon as you can
  • Give them permission to speak with someone they trust.  This will provide them with an outlet for any worries and anxieties they may carry around with them.


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