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Children Can Pick Up on the Tension in Our Households

Why it's so important to resolve resentments and frustrations in our families.

When our kids were toddlers and we had an argument with our spouse, we might have thought, “Well, at least they can’t understand what we’re saying.” While this may be true, it’s also possible that they were getting the message loud and clear through the emotional tension in the home. When there is emotional upset in the household, there is a palpable tension that can permeate throughout the family. Think about how it feels when someone is upset in your home. It radiates from them. We know it. We feel it. And so do our kids.

As our kids grow, we may work at suppressing the desire to confront the people we’re not getting along with so the kids don’t have to hear the arguments. However, even if we suppress it, we are still feeling the tension, upset, and resentment. Whether it’s on the surface or under the surface, “to protect the children,” it still rises to the top where children can pick up on it. They know that something’s not right, even if they can’t identify the source of the problem.

This can lead to children feeling at risk and not safe in their homes. When this happens, they can become insecure and worry that they are at risk, which can lead to difficulties in the future when they start their own families. It’s important that children feel they are protected and safe, however, when the adults around them are struggling, or stuffing deep feelings of frustration inside themselves, it can become very clear to children that something is wrong. This can affect them in numerous ways and often causes them to become anxious and concerned.

There are times in families when people have loud, sometimes violent fights in front of their children. This, of course, can be very scary and lead to long-lasting trauma. However, a fight doesn’t have to be out in the open for it to have negative consequences. Parents and other family members, who have stuffed their feelings and consistently are emotionally cold to each other, can affect children as well.

While arguments happen in families, the way they are dealt with can mean the difference between fighting fair and stuffing your feelings with built-up resentment. When arguments are discussed fairly, where children see that people can disagree and still respect each other, it models positive behavior to them. However, when there is lingering frustration and resentment in the household because issues are left unresolved, that can do long-term damage to a child’s emotional state. This chronic dissatisfaction can be internalized by children and affect the way they relate to their own families when they become adults themselves.

Why is this? When a family member struggles with another family member, he or she may develop emotional shielding to mask their pain. This emotional shielding may get in the way of them being fully able to be open and caring with their child. In this way, the child is being shown love by someone who is not fully present to their own emotions and may withhold the type of love and caring the child needs to feel secure. The child may then grow up internalizing this emotional withholding, which can damage his or her future relationships.

The bottom line is, that to be a fully loving and caring parent, we need to resolve the issues present in our families. Nobody wants to grow up in an unhappy household where people are miserable because they are unable to resolve their issues. How many people have lived sad, depressing lives because they were unable to find the strength to address their emotional issues?

For the sake of our children, and for our own benefit as well, we all need to face the unresolved issues in our homes and bring them out in the open so they can be dealt with and resolved. In this way, we can have full connections with our spouses, our families, and our children. This can pave the way for children to have truly happy upbringings, full of emotionally healthy parents who are getting the most out of their lives. In this way, our children can bring these experiences with them into adulthood and have the same expectations for their own lives.

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