When parents get on well together their children do better. However, we know that every relationship has its ups and downs and it’s not always plain sailing. Relationship difficulties, including parental conflict, have become even more common in the past year due to the pandemic and all the stress and changes in routine that we have all had to adapt to so quickly.

Around one in four couples today are in relationships classified as ‘distressed’. The conflict between parents can be easily triggered, often by normal things that upset our daily lives. These ‘everyday issues’ can oftentimes go undetected as a problem because we’re all so busy in our lives. It can be easy to forget that when relationships are strained it is the children who suffer the most!

Children who are exposed to frequent conflict are at greater risk of depression and anxiety and are more prone to problems with their physical health. Constant conflict creates stressful environments which might impact a child’s cognitive performance and cause behavioural problems at school.

Fighting undermines a child’s sense of security about the stability of the family. It can also affect the parent-child relationship. Children often feel responsible for their parent’s arguments. They may try to take on the role of mediator in the hope of preventing the fight, or they might feel like they need to pick a side in the argument. This can be an extremely difficult situation for a child to find themselves in. In some cases, it can lead to the child completely falling out with one of their parents which can be damaging for both the child and the parent. All of this can have long-term mental health effects, impacting their adult relationships and their psychological wellbeing.

Parental Conflict… who suffers?

It’s not just older children who suffer when there is parental conflict at home. A stressful home environment creates trauma that can impact a child’s psychological development from a very young age. A brain that has adapted to survive in a threatening and unpredictable world may not work so well in an ordinary environment. Children who have experienced constant trauma get the ‘Fight, Flight, or Freeze’ response. When this response is constantly being activated, even when there is no real danger, it can take a huge toll on the child’s long-term mental health. It can also take a physical strain on their body which can result in them feeling constantly tired.  A child may also find it hard to adjust to change, new social situations, and learning to trust new people.

Parental conflict can lead to antisocial and hostile behaviours. The child can also develop attachment issues as well as constantly being alert and guarded. They may also be left with a general negative outlook in life.

No relationship can be perfect and totally conflict-free, which is fine, but when you notice that arguing becomes the norm remember that there is help out there, and if not for you, please get help for the sake of your children. Parental conflict doesn’t need to leave your children with mental health issues.

Moving on from Parental Conflict

If you feel that there are issues in your relationships that could be affecting your children, get in touch today. We have specialist counsellors that can help you and your partner to work through the issues you are facing, and also be a support for your children.

Contact the Nightingale Counselling team today on 0141 353 9373 or by using the form on our Contact Page.

Dafina Ganeva

Online Individual Counsellor
Nightingale Counselling Consultancy