Hi - welcome back!
I know there's been quite a gap since I've written anything here (in fact it was the middle of our winter), as I felt pretty strongly about some of the ideas in my last update on Authoritative Parenting, so I wanted to leave it all there for quite a while. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it....).
One of the things I've been thinking quite a bit about lately, and also continuing to encounter in my work, is the number of kids who are exposed to high levels of parental conflict. I'd always known that whilst kids can be fine with exposure to an amount of low-level conflict (that this exposure can actually be useful modelling for them, so longs as it's not happening all the time, and so long as they actually see parents resolving differences), the impact on them, of parents who are frequently yelling, swearing, ranting, raving, and are frequently volatile and reactive, is actually quite concerning for reasons that I'll mention....
Kids are of course more likely to be at risk from the 'higher end' stuff when parents are separated/divorced and have less opportunity therefore (and usually less of a commitment) to resolve issues. Which is ironic, because parents will often separate because they have conflict which they can no longer manage - thinking, understandably that separation will bring an end to it. But no - for many separating couples, it means the beginning of on-going damaging conflict, which can sometimes last for years - and of course this winds up being the defining back-drop against which their children will then live their lives.
The issues that the separated parents are still locked in to fighting about are usually connected to residual stuff that has its origins in the demise of the couple relationship - so with the finish of the couple relationship, that all needs to be left behind so that the kids can get the quality parenting they are entitled to, as it's not their fault that mum and dad could not work through their couple issues. As I wind up saying so often: "they are still entitled to have you working as a parenting team."
But I am digressing - back to the impact on kids (of all ages), of on-going parental conflict....From the reading I've been doing recently, the impact is much bigger than I'd understood it to be. But firstly something so important that it needs to be shouted (in a friendly way, of course) : parents are often unaware of the impact of their conflict on their children.
And this conflict seemingly affects several different, yet very important areas of their kids lives and their day to day functioning. This includes:
(1) Relationships with either or both parents - it can potentially be a challenge for a child or adolescent to a have a full and open relationship with an adult who clearly despises the other central adult in their world, whom they (the young person) would also want to have a full and open relationship with. Kids also come to understand over time, that parent's on-going conflict with each other can take time, energy and attention away from other relationships.
(2) Relationships with peers can become difficult, in that young people may feel they are not being accepted, and will have problems in sorting out differences with friends, leading to unsettled friendships, with this being especially so when the young person moves through crucial adolescent years.
(3) Sense of self - they will have decreased levels of confidence, and will be less sure of their own abilities.
(4) Mental health may be compromised, in that they are more vulnerable to anxiety or depression, either during childhood, or later years.
(5) Decreased academic performance.
Parental conflict also affects boys and girls differently. Girls are more likely to exhibit higher levels of emotional distress, whereas boy may show higher levels of aggression.
Concerning stuff for sure - yet conflicted parents can become so immersed in their own issues that they lose sight of what is really important.
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."