Managing heated family quarrels

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

All parents are likely to have a disagreement or argument with each other at some point in their relationship. So 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 they are on the verge of a big argument is not to involve the kids. This places children in a very difficult situation. Kids identify with both of the parents and because of this, they interpret negative emotions 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 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 parents to remember why they are there in the first place. Create a practice of calming yourself at those times, so that you can think more clearly and rationally.

For parents who just cannot 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, learn how to de-stress and explore calming tips, problem solving skills and ways of letting go. To find a class near you, take a look at the MSU Extension Events Page.

If you fail to manage a heated dispute, do damage control. Parents 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 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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