Conflict is a normal part of family life. What matters is how parents handle it and deal with it.
If your children are witnessing and living with continuous parental 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 it has 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.
• Behavioural problems: perhaps the most common, most noticeable change and can include but not limited to aggression and disruptive behaviour. Children will often express stress and the lack of adequate support through behaviour as opposed to words.
• Sleep disturbances. Your 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/her. This could be caused by the stressful situation in which they live.
• Underachievement at school
• Low self-esteem and/or is exceedingly self-critical.
• Regression. Your child may be showing behaviour more consistent with his/her younger self; behaviours that they had outgrown but have now reverted back to – may include bed wetting for instance.
• Where your child is no longer interested in things that she/he used to enjoy doing or participating in.
• Your child has 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).
• Developing feeding problems
We, as adults and as parents, can and do underestimate children’s capacity to understand feelings and relationships. Speaking with them and answering their questions as much as possible can go a long way in helping them deal with the situation.
Also, and this may sound odd, giving them permission to speak with you or someone they trust can also open doors for communication to happen spontaneously hence avoiding a whole lot of problems down the line. Just letting them know it’s ok and letting them see that you, as the parent, can handle and contain their fears, worries and anxieties allows them to come to you.