Are you one of those parents that fight each other all the time? Here’s how it’s impacting your teen

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It's your responsibility as a parent to create an emotionally safe and stable environment for your child. When kids growing up watching their folks constantly fight, this can be deeply traumatic.
It's your responsibility as a parent to create an emotionally safe and stable environment for your child. When kids growing up watching their folks constantly fight, this can be deeply traumatic.
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Teenagers are expected to behave in a certain way by their parents.

One of the requirements in a household is undoubtedly, respect for their elders or parents. This may translate differently in various households. For instance, when there is an argument or a fight between parents, as a child you are likely to be expected to stay out of it or keep quiet when it happens.

CONSTANT ARGUMENTS

You might be feeling overwhelmed by the constant arguments and fights between your parents. Experts share information to help you deal with a situation where your parents are constantly arguing and fighting with each other.

As a child, when your parents fight, you might find yourself in an overwhelming pool of emotions. Family Life Centre (Famsa) counselling social worker, Jennifer Papers, says teens have a lot to deal with and having to deal with such a situation in the home can be quite challenging for them.

“Teens are very emotional beings as they are in a transition phase of their own. Adding to that stress can lead to great emotional and psychological trauma. Some teens even resort to suicide because the situation is unbearable,” she says.

“Their school performance drops and they socially isolate themselves. Shame and guilt become overwhelming while feeling unloved and not cared for.”

Sometimes an argument can be over nothing and happens because one or both of the parents is not feeling well or is stressed from work or other concerns.

Many times, the parents don’t even know what’s bothering them. They just lash out at whoever is closest but as a teenager, you might decode the fighting differently and inaccurately.

Read more | Suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in youth aged 15-29 – here’s how you can save your child

WHAT YOU ARE FEELING

Sometimes when something like this happens, you might not even understand the feelings you are going through.

These are some emotions you might go through:

  • Anger – Teenagers often harbour feelings of anger towards their parents for what they are putting them through.
  • Frustration – Not being able to be happy or come to a loving home could make you feel hopeless.
  • Anxiety – Not knowing when your parents will be getting into their next fight can cause anxiety about the parents physically hurting each other.
  • Fear – The fear of being put in the middle of your parents’ fight and being forced to choose sides even when you love both parents is unbearable.
  • Blame – You might blame yourself for the problems that are causing your parents to fight. 

THE EFFECTS

Jennifer says as a teenager you become rebellious as you have lost respect for parents. Anger is often displayed in aggressiveness so you could constantly get into verbal and physical fights.

“Such teens tend to become bullies in the playground and often mimic the behaviour of parents. These teens get involved in drugs and alcohol to help them cope and numb the pain. They also learn to become manipulative as they are able to play their parents up against each other to get what they want,” she says.

WebMD, a website on human health and wellbeing, touches on what is likely to happen when parents fight. “Teens can feel unprotected when they see their parents upset and out of control when they argue. Their world seems to be falling apart. They may worry and have difficulty sleeping; they may not want to go to school,” it says.

“They may even feel ashamed and withdraw from their normal activities or friends. It’s not unusual for teens to worry about one parent or the other during an argument. They may also worry that one parent seems so angry that they might lose control and that someone may get physically hurt.”

SPEAK UP

According to Jennifer, as a teen you express yourself much better through writing. She says it is important for parents to be made aware of their behaviour and how this affects you.

“Grown-ups can be very selfish and inconsiderate when getting into fights to get their own needs met. Seeking professional help is another option should your parents continue fighting,” she says.

Read more | What to do if your teen is addicted to lean, the codeine and soda mix 

Rather than harbouring all these emotions, Jennifer says you must speak to someone who understands what you are going through. She says this doesn’t have to be a family member, it can be a teacher, a priest or someone old and responsible enough to help you deal with what is going on.

“It is important for you to speak to someone about your pain to avoid you displaying your parents’ behaviour in your own relationships. It is also very important to remember not to blame yourself, your parents’ fights are not your fault,” she says.

“Don’t ever feel forced to choose sides. Love and respect your parents equally, their fights should never include you.”

*This story was originally published in the print edition of Move magazine on 26 September 2018.

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