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When parents argue constantly

It can be a worry and upsetting for children and teenagers when parents argue, but they need to be reassured that the rows are not their fault.

Parents can experience stress for many reasons, from work to home life, and sometimes when this spills over into an argument, children hear some angry words.

What happens when parents argue?

Most of the time, parents can disagree with each other and still manage to talk about it calmly. Other times, parents disagree strongly and they argue.

When parents argue, it's normal for teenagers to worry. When parents shout angry words, young people feel afraid, sad, and upset. Sometimes arguments use silence - when parents are angry at each other, and don't talk to each other at all. Silent arguing can be just as upsetting as loud arguing.

Sometimes the argument is about the children. This might cause teenagers to feel like they are to blame. But parents' behaviour is never the teenagers’ fault.

What does it mean when parents argue?

In addition to feeling guilty about their parents' arguments, young people often fear that their parents don't care about each other anymore. They may fear their parents will get a divorce. Even though divorce is common, arguments don't necessarily mean that the parents don't love each other any more or that they're going to divorce.

Most of the time when parents argue, it's because they are tired or stressed or have had a bad day and lost their patience. Almost everyone loses his or her cool every now and then.

Sometimes when parents argue, they act just like children. They get upset. They cry. They shout. They may say things they don't mean.

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.

How do teenagers feel when their parents argue?

Teenagers can feel unprotected when they see their parents upset and out of control. Their world seems to be falling apart. They may cry and get stomachaches. They worry. They might have difficulty sleeping. They may not want to go to school. They may even feel ashamed and withdraw from their usual activities and from friends.

It's not unusual for teenagers to worry about one parent or the other during an argument. They might feel like one parent is being abused because the other parent is shouting so much. They may also worry that one parent seems so angry they might lose control and that someone may get physically hurt.

What should you do when parents argue?

When your parents argue, the best thing to do is to stay out of the argument. For instance, go somewhere else in the house, or go outside. It's their fight, and it is not your job to be an arbitrator or referee.

After things have calmed down, tell your parents how much their arguing upsets you. They may not be aware of how their fighting affects those around them.

If you feel the arguing is out of control, talk to a trusted friend, teacher, school counsellor (if you have one), a close relative, or your doctor. Someone else should know what's going on, because you don't want the arguments to become so out of control that someone gets hurt.

There are also professional therapists and counsellors who can help adults and families work through problems. They can help family members learn to listen to each other and to talk things out without losing their tempers. It takes time, but it does work.

In a family, everyone has to try to make life better for the others. Yes, arguments and disagreements happen. They happen every day. But with patience, understanding, and persistence, families can overcome almost any problem.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on December 20, 2017

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