Children look to their parents to set examples for how to navigate through life. Everything from manners to making dinner is a chance for adults to model good habits and decision making. But even the parts of your life you may think you're kids are unaware of can make an impression on them. If things are rocky with you and your partner, there are many ways your relationship issues affect your kids. Even though they're small, children are very intuitive, and can pick up on the negative vibes coursing through the grown ups in their life. So if you think your smiling face is hiding something from your little ones, you'll need to think twice.
Kids are always watching and listening, picking up everything adults are laying down. This means when there is tension in the house, they feel it too. These emotions can be confusing for little ones, and if they don't feel comfortable coming to you to talk about the situations, they may start to display some behaviors that tip you off to how they're feeling.
All relationships go through phases, and if you're in a rough patch right now, you'll want to keep your eyes peeled for these seven ways your relationship issues affect your kids, so you can help the whole family work through this tough spot.
1. They Learn To Argue
Sometimes there is no perfect time to argue, and a fight pops up when the kids are watching. According to Kids Health, children should see fighting adults make up because it gives them a good example of conflict resolution. But even more importantly, it teaches them that arguments don't mean two people don't love each other anymore. Making up and moving on shows kids that even though disagreements happen, there is a way to mend those problems.
2. They Feel Guilty
When adults aren't getting along, things can get confusing for kids. As Psychology Today pointed out, kids often feel guilty when their parents fight, and feel it is their responsibility to be the peacekeeper in the house. Children tend to place the blame on themselves and feel responsible for their caregiver's problems.
3. They Start To Withdraw
Depending on their emotional disposition, problems between the adults in their life could cause kids to shut down. As researcher Dr. Gordon Harold reported to ABC News, "a child reacting to parental fighting may be withdrawn or quiet," and it's possible that you could miss this as a sign they need your attention.
4. Depression & Anxiety Increase
The exposure to ongoing conflict between parents can bring on some serious conditions. It may not happen right away, but over time kids who live in a home with fighting parents tend to show more signs of anxiety and depression than children exposed to less adult conflict, according to U.S. News and World Report.
5. Problems Spill Over To School
When emotional problems arise for kids, it's common for the effects to show up in places outside the home. According to Psych Central, witnessing fighting parents can cause kids to have a hard time regulating their emotions, which can show up in classroom behavior.
6. They Become Fearful
Depending on their age, children may react differently to adult conflict. As the New York Times pointed out, young children are more likely to feel scared when adults don't get along. This can lead to these children being excessively worried about expressing their own anger when that emotion shows up.
7. It Changes Their Brain
Conflict in the home has been shown to change the ways a child's brain processes emotions. According to a study at the University of Vermont, children who live in a home where there is consistent exposure to fighting have a different brain response to emotions than kids who experience low levels of familial conflict. Researchers believe this is due to an increased level of vigilance.