when you grow up watching your parents fight

The Impact of Parental Relationships on Children's Coping Mechanisms

January 25, 2024

Watching how your parents interact can impact the way you cope with relationship dysfunction.

In some families, children grow up in an environment filled with tension and unpredictability. Let's take a hypothetical family as an example. This family consists of a mom, a dad, and two children. The mom in this family has frequent, unpredictable outbursts. She yells, insults the dad, and threatens to abandon the family, making the family home a challenging place to live. Everyone in the family walks on eggshells, trying their best to avoid setting her off.

After one of the mom's outbursts, the two kids are understandably shaken and seek guidance from their dad. They want reassurance that the volatile environment they're growing up in isn't "normal". These children sense something is wrong, but the father cannot offer the reassurance they need.

The dad, unfortunately, is in denial about the impact of his wife's actions. He doesn't want to get a divorce, stir up further conflict, or possibly become a target for his wife's rage. So, he seems to forget every incident right after it happens. When the kids bring up the issue, he acts as if it never occurred, dismisses their feelings, and denies their experiences.

In these families, children often learn several lessons. They may learn that their feelings or concerns are often dismissed or downplayed. They may learn that denial is a way to avoid dealing with uncomfortable or painful situations. They're also taught that if they don't acknowledge an issue, they don't have to do anything about it. Furthermore, they may learn that they can convince themselves that everything is fine, even when it's not. Most damaging of all, they learn not to trust their feelings or instincts.

Children who grow up in this environment often develop a specific skill set. They learn not to listen to themselves, to deny what they're feeling, and to suppress their emotions.

There are so many reasons a parent may behave this way, and they're often understandable. They may be trying to protect themselves and their children from further harm. They may fear that if they confront the harmful behavior, they'll be hurt financially, physically, or emotionally. Therefore, they choose to remain silent. Many adults are victims in their own homes, just trying to survive. While this explains the situation, it doesn't negate the impact it has on the children involved.

If you grew up in a home like this, it's crucial to understand its impact on you. It's important to acknowledge that from a young age, you knew something was wrong, and you had every right to feel the way you did. The aim of creating this awareness is not to blame your parents but to ensure that you don't repeat the same patterns.

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