‘Relationship problems and conflict between their parents can have a significant impact on a child’s well-being, sense of security and self-esteem’ said Dr Jon Goldin, a consultant psychiatrist from Great Ormond Street Hospital.
As all people know it, parents play an indispensable role in a child’s growth. It could be concluded that children who have complete and cheerful families are more active and happy than those who don’t. Many studies have been carried out to support the claim. Scholars also focused on the effect of parents’ marital situation on their child’s growth from being a toddler to being a full grown person.
Marital problems and Child’s sleeping disruptions
A study published in the Journal of Child Development proved that toddlers experience disruption in their sleeping patterns when their parents are not happy with their relationship. Researchers looked at the 357 adopted children and their respective families in the US (researchers focused on adopted children to make sure their behaviour is not genetically affected by their parents). They then conducted an interview with the parents when their babies were just 9 months old and another one when their children reached 18th month. Researchers pointed out that the state of parents’ relationship when their child is just 9 months old can severely affect the sleeping pattern of the toddler on the 18th month. Such sleeping disruptions can then lead to serious disorders such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Stressors on Child’s Behaviour
Though a child’s behaviour is largely affected by the parents’ genes, he/she can develop attitude problems when in an unhealthy environment. According to Professor Harold, while genes did still play a part in a child’s development, a couple’s exchanges do have an effect on the child. Another thing that needs to be considered in ensuring proper mental and psychological growth of a child is the need to eliminate stressors. According to Dr. Jamie Houston, consultant paediatrician at Lorn and Island Hospital in Scotland, parents need to be aware of stressors that affect them and minimise the effect on their children. Stressors include unsound familial environment such as parent’s disagreements and quarrels.
Counselling Parents as Child Behaviour Therapy
Many psychologists believe that counselling their parents can help a child get over with his/her behavioural challenges. And so far, it is the most popular therapy to solve not just marital but family problems as well. The idea of this therapy is to educate the parents of their role and how their relationship can affect their child’s attitude, instead of treating the problems demonstrated by their child. This makes sense because parents have the highest healing power on their children as they tend to be with their kids and communicate with them every day.
Making Couples “Parent-Trainers”
The way parents interact with their kids and how they deal with their situations as couples can severely affect the way their children behave. Dr. McAuley, on his book Counselling Parents in Child Behaviour Therapy says that “marital problems may lead to serious disagreements about child management, less time or the child, and impose additional stress upon he child”.
11th of May, 2011, BBC2 aired Wonderland – the Trouble with Love and, Sex, an animated documentary which gives a behind the scenes look into counselling at Relate. The said documentary focused on the common marital issues such as lack of attention and intimacy on each partner’s side and how dealing with these can make a big difference in their relationship as husband and wife. Not only that, when couples have learned to make their relationships better, they can already start to be effective “parent-trainers” to help their children recover from any behavioural outbursts.