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Should divorcing parents argue in front of their kids?

Child psychologists and researchers for years have debated over whether it’s unhealthy for children to witness their parents fighting or whether it should be kept private. We’re sure it’s something residents here in Maryland have considered, especially if they are going through a particularly rough patch in their marriage or a divorce. So what seems to be the verdict on this topic?

While a definitive answer has yet to be agreed upon, so-called experts on both sides of the issue do agree that the decision to argue in front of children depends heavily on how parents approach each argument and how they choose to resolve their issues in the end.

Let’s take for example a couple going through the beginning stages of a divorce. For them, emotions may be running high, which can result in more heated arguments. Hostility in such fights has been linked to a greater risk of depression, anxiety disorders and even behavioral disorders in children. While children need to witness real-world disagreements in order to learn how to address such issues on their own, demonstrating such anger may be the very thing so many people have warned parents against.

Instead, parents are encouraged to maintain a level of control over their emotions, even establishing a sort of "tap out" point that can be used to signal when one partner has reached their boiling point before the disagreement escalates. While this may prove to be quite difficult, especially for couples who are going through a separation, researchers believe that keeping control of an argument and not letting it get out of hand in front of children offers them a chance to view "constructive" marital conflict and the ability to learn from that. This, hopefully, will better prepare them for real-world encounters of their own down the road.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "The Family That Fights Together," Andrea Petersen, Sept. 23, 2013

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