Managing family quarrels

Parents are bound to have disagreements. Here are some ways to minimize the negative impact of family quarrels on children.

All parents/caregivers are likely to have a disagreement or argument with each other, but what are some ways to minimize the negative impact of these heated moments on the kids? Often, it is just a matter of using some basic anger management techniques.

One of the most important things for parents to remember when on the verge of a big argument is not to involve the kids. Being drawn into a parental dispute places children in a very difficult situation. Kids identify with both of the parents/caregivers and because of this, they interpret negative characteristics as also aimed at them. This may create shame and low self-esteem in children who are caught in these arguments and battles.

Next, parents/caregivers need to remember who they are arguing with. Anger causes irrational thinking and often we lose sight of the bigger picture. Even in the heat of the moment, it is important for the parents/caregivers to remember why they are there in the first place. Create a practice of calming yourself at those times, so that you can think clearer and more rationally.

For parents/caregivers who just can’t keep from arguing in a fair and calm manner, Michigan State University Extension offers RELAX: Alternative to Anger. The four-week program helps participants recognize what their anger triggers are and offers approaches to de-stress and calm down. For a class near you, visit the events page.

If you fail to manage a heated dispute, do damage control. Parents/caregivers can let the children know that sometimes moms and dads have disagreements and that you are still trying to do this without yelling. Even apologizing to the children for the fight can help the kids regain a sense of security.

Ultimately, in strong families where things are positive, even bad arguments can be tolerated. Good, constructive arguments, that include compromises and problem solving, can teach kids how to handle their own disagreements. Parents/caregivers are the role models. When kids learn how to manage strong feelings and coping skills positively, it builds resiliency and a sense of mastery that they can handle their own feelings in a constructive way.

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