By Claudia Perez, Ph.D.
When parents argue too much and for too long, their children internalize negative feelings and thoughts. This turbulent input most often leads to anxiety and or fear. The continued experience threatens a child’s sense of safety. It is not a parent’s intent to harm or cause pain, but when stressed or full of resentments, parental behaviors are self-serving and the child becomes the recipient of this negative experience. Continued discord between parents who have become self absorbed in and reactive to their own drama, can lead to a child feeling as if they are invisible. Parents forget that children are highly sensitive to bickering or daily arguments…….. many, always on high alert. Bedroom walls are permeable and phones are now extensions of ourselves. Earlier and earlier in their lives, children are aware that divorce is commonplace among their schoolmates and they are frightened it may happen to them.
The experience of home feeling safe, warm and nurturing is what every child wants and deserves, regardless of the configuration of today’s modern family. Being a party to continued direct or indirect fighting between parents, youngsters can become confused and nervous. They see television shows or look at picture books that portray happy families. When adults make nasty comments, are sarcastic or blaming, children wonder if they are the cause. Did I do something wrong? Was I bad? The negativity can be as subtle as eye rolling or the silent treatment or as overt as screaming or pushing…..kids know their parents are at odds. In the heat of the moment, mom or dad are often unaware that they are disrespecting their child. Many kids feel they do not matter, some take on the role of peacemaker and some children believe if only they did the right thing, the fighting will stop.
Sometimes, one parent may inappropriately befriend a child and make them their confidant in place of their spouse. Others can unconsciously foster messengering, to communicate for them, and out of necessity the other parent may return the favor. Some kids endure the wrath of the blamer, who often badmouths the other parent. Young children are concrete in their thinking and this behavior further burdens a child. Loyalties are called into play as they are caught in the middle. Despite the role of the chosen child, which can elevate their notion of self, the importance is short lived. As a child matures, they have enough to do developmentally and this added pressure can be most destructive.
I have written two unique Children’s books “The WilliNewbies” and “Love Me.” The lyrical words and illustrations speak directly to children, while imparting a poignant and important message to parents. The stories have been reviewed by Rosalind Sedacca,
The Voice of Child-Centered Divorce
“Love Me” is a wonderful reminder for parents about how much their children need to be loved and feel loved. Dr. Perez’s message is one that needs to be reinforced by teachers, clergy and parenting groups so that children everywhere are respected and valued for who they are!
In “The Willinewbies,” Claudia Perez, PhD tackles the challenges of helping children cope with the fear and anxiety that comes when their parents fight aloud. Beautifully illustrated, this book captures the emotional turmoil children feel and reminds parents they have a responsibility to safeguard their children when conflict gets out of control.
Go to www.loveme-book.com to get more information, see pages and get discount codes for Amazon and Createspace.com. I offer a first shipment at cost to Attorneys, Therapists, Counselors and Teachers and at a very reduced rate thereafter.
Dr. Perez’s blog is relevant for all parents – whether living in an intact, divorced, stepfamily, or blended family. Keeping conflict low in a home is important for the healthy development of all children. We would love to read your comments. Terry and Tracy