It is not only the restrictions that states are imposing on citizens in a difficult attempt to contain COVID-19 that are increasing tensions in couples and families. Certainly the constraint of staying at home, managing children in DaD, the inability to move and enjoy one’s habits create many stress problems. But to these are also added economic, employment, uncertainties for the future. And if that weren’t enough, many social, political and environmental problems seem to be increasingly disruptive to us all.
This stress, and the particular situation that sees us powerless to change things, lowers that threshold of tolerance and patience that is proper to us, and a drop is enough to unleash states of anger and annoyance that end with heated discussions and quarrels.
Sometimes we discuss problems that they cannot be solved. They are those normal characteristics of each of us that can only be accepted but that emerge from time to time and that create the need for an outlet (always of course within the limits!).
Other problems instead they have a solution, however, they are not always able to deal with a cold head and we end up discussing it in an agitated way. So what happens if, perhaps in the lack of privacy forced by the pandemic, the children end up witnessing it?
A question that can be resolved can also be faced in front of the little ones, but it should always be closed in front of them. Leaving a “quarrel” in abeyance that is then resolved at another time is fine for the couple, but whoever witnesses it may not understand that in the end everything has settled down. We participate in a moment of rupture, but not in the moment of return to normality, which instead is an opportunity for important growth.
Children learn by imitation, so even a heated discussion can teach them how to deal with them when their time comes. Some points we can keep in mind, although understandably they are not easy to follow:
- Take a breath. Taking breaks in a discussion allows you to loosen the instinct to have the upper hand and to lower the tones that usually grow exponentially. The classic “count to 10” always applies.
- To listen. This is a difficult part because when you are convinced of your position it is difficult to hear the (different) opinions of others. But are we sure we are right?
- Stay on topic. When the climate of a discussion becomes hot it is easy to start talking about everything and more (obviously always about “things that are not right”) and make the discussion so general that nothing is resolved.
- Use the right words. Not only towards the partner, but being able to have an adequate language for the little ones who are listening (even if they are not in the same room)
- Postpone. Sometimes it is good to choose a different time to discuss. In the morning, maybe just before leaving the house or in the evening before going to bed, they are not the best choices, because, at least for the little ones, everything will almost certainly remain “suspended”
- Remember that they are there too: if they go away or ask to stop arguing it is important to calm down and reassure them
The heated discussions or quarrels happen, it is normal as long as they do not become everyday life. Attending a fight can be a powerful experience for children, but if you are able to handle the discussion constructively, it becomes a time for them to grow. By avoiding too hostile attitudes and avoiding offensive and vulgar language, they can learn that it is possible to discuss but that at the base there remains a mutual respect that in the end wins even over the most angular differences.