To review, during times of conflict within the couple relationship there are several problems that can arise related to parenting:
- One or both parents may undermine the authority of the other parent in reaction to a conflict happening with the couple relationship.
- One or both parents may attempt to form an alliance with their children against the other parent.
- “Spillover” can occur when negative emotions and behavior that happened between two parents spills over and negatively colors the emotions and behaviors occurring between a parent and child. Parents who are having conflict with each other may:
(i) Use more harsh and punitive discipline with their children.
(ii) Become disengaged and disinterested in their children’s lives.
(iii) Show more negative emotions toward their children like frustration and impatience.
- Poor communication (or no communication) can occur between partners about parenting matters and decisions.
- Frequent arguments can occur, at times in front of the children.
- Inconsistent, ineffective, or the absence of appropriate discipline for children can happen.
- One or both parents may hyper-focus on the children and their activities to distract from dealing with the couple relationship problems.
- Inappropriate confiding in children about the conflict within the couple relationship may happen.
Healthy Behaviors Related to Couple Conflict and Parenting
In order to address your negative parenting behaviors related to couple conflict, the following behaviors are offered as healthy ways to parent effectively even during times of conflict:
- Set aside problems in the couple relationship and use constructive communication with your partner about parenting matters.
- Avoid arguments in front of your children.
- Avoid talking negatively about your partner in front of your children.
- Avoid drawing your children into conflicts between you and your partner.
- Continue showing an interest in your children’s lives.
- Do your best to compartmentalize and contain conflict with your partner and avoid letting negative interactions spill over into interactions with your children.
- Adopt healthy stress management behaviors like exercising and meditating.
- Deal with the conflict between yourself and your partner directly.
Next, we review the negative emotions related to couple conflict and parenting and consider healthy ways to deal with these.