Parental conflict and the effects on parenting

The relationship quality between a couple will effect how they parent a child

It can have an impact on how they care for their children, establish consistent routines, provide a stimulating environment for development, how they provide emotional security and how they role model a healthy relationship.

Many parents become less emotionally available as a parent when they are using up their emotional energy engaged in conflict with their partner. Parents who feel out of control in other areas of their relationship may look to regain feelings of control in their parenting. The usually gentle parent may begin to have a harsher manner or visa-versa in response to how their relationship conflict is making them feel. A parent who is aware of these kinds of behaviour changes may compensate for the impact by being more lenient.

The impact on parenting ability

what does it look like?

  • Emotionally Unavailable When a parent is so consumed by their conflict they find it hard to meet their child’s emotional needs as they are distracted by trying to meet their own.
  • Compensating When a parent is aware that their child is being exposed to a negative atmosphere or parenting in general they over-compensate by being lenient, relaxing rules, giving gifts etc.
  • Harsh Being in conflict can be very stressful and it is normal when stressed to have a shorter fuse.
  • Inactive A parent may feel so overwhelmed by their conflict that they may feel less able to carry out their responsibilities as a parent.
  • Controlling Being over controlling and micro-managing children can restore some sense of control when it is lacking in their adult relationships.
  • Blaming At times of conflict a parent can often look for someone to blame for things, and often this may be the child.
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Passing on Messages

This short video is about parents passing messages through their daughter, and how they could do that differently.

Book onto the RPC training to discuss this and other scenarios in more depth.

What causes conflict in relationships?
  • Text link image The list is endless...
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    Couples can argue about anything! Often arguments start from a sarcastic comment but sometimes they can be instigated by more serious concerns, such as addition.

    As a practitioner you are likely to come across some common issues that lead a couple to conflict such as household chores, money, employment, housing, friends, sex, extended family etc . Often the reason issues cause arguments is because they feel out of control. Things are happening that make people feel vulnerable and their response to feeling this way may be confusion and frustration and that can bubble over into the way they communicate. Poor communication can be the spring-board into conflict.

  • Text link image Perspectives
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    Conflict often springs up between two people because they have very different perspectives on the same thing.

    It is easy for couples to get frustrated when a partner is not seeing a situation the same way. An ability to try and see the others perspective is essential for compromise and empathy to find reconciliation and a way to move forward together. Stepping into another person’s shoes, even if you don’t like the shoes, is the skill needed to navigate a successful relationship.

What are the signs of distress
  • Parents v's children
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    • Parents: signs
    • Children: Internalising
    • Children: externalising
    • Children: A Parent Child
    What we may notice
    • Parents
      In an adult we may notice:
      A change in appearance, habits/usual behaviour. A withdrawal from social situations or an increase in use/misuse of alcohol, substances, gambling. Low mood/increase in anxiety, signs of mental health or emotional difficulties. A change in parenting style and indifference towards partner.
    • Children
      Internalising effects in a child:
      They may withdraw away from ther family and friends and become less engaged in their environment. At school they may be more quiet and reserved or may need help from Children's Mental Health Services
    • Children
      Externalising effects in a child
      Becoming aggressive towards others, starting to make trouble, struggling to socialise. Changes in behaviour at school, going missing and getting into trouble with authorities.
    • Children
      A Parent Child:
      A child may present with parent-like behaviour, taking on responsibilities that should be that of the parent. They may also try to mend rifts between parents in an attempt to make things better.

Benefits of Grandparents

The importance of extended family cannot be underestimated.

Generally, for the vast majority of children of all ages, grandparents in particular provide stability, safety, life experience, family history information and enjoyment. In return, caring for grandchildren can help depression, boost social connections, and has been shown to keep older adults mentally sharp and less lonely.

Research shows that there are number of health benefits as well as challenges. Grandparents often have a unique bond with their grandchildren that provides a security blanket when things are difficult at home. When things are tough between the adults, Grandparents and other extended family can be there in a supportive role if everyone can set their feelings aside for the sake of the children.

Download the toolkit to find activites and tools intended to promote discussion about relationships between children and their wider family/networks.

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