6 Ways Witnessing Their Parents' Toxic Marriage Can Have Traumatic Impact on Children

6 Ways Witnessing Their Parents' Toxic Marriage Can Have Traumatic Impact on Children

Since the lockdown, the number of domestic violence cases has gone up in the US. Many people are stuck in their homes with their abusers. This can have a lasting impact on the children witnessing it.

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If children can't feel safe in their own homes and instead encounter stress and tension, they are likely to face many short and long-term consequences. As parents, you may have stayed in a marriage long past its due date to ensure that your kids had stability. However, children are likely to fare better in a calm home. In the long-term, witnessing abuse and trauma can cause some irreversible health conditions as well. Divorce is obviously not something anyone takes lightly but something that needs deliberation.


People who see value in making an effort to save their marriage can try couples counseling, individual therapy, or support groups as well before pulling the plug on their relationship, according to Psychology Today. But, it is important to make sure that the kids feel taken care of and safe at home since they can model future relationships based on their parents' marriage.


Moreover, the number of domestic violence cases has increased alarmingly during the lockdown. "Perpetrators are threatening to throw their victims out on the street so they get sick," Katie Ray-Jones, the CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline told TIME. "We’ve heard of some withholding financial resources or medical assistance."


If your children can be a motivation for you to leave an abusive partner, here are some ways your bad marriage could be affecting your child.

1. They can have low self-esteem

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Growing up in a tense environment can change even a confident child. As a result of their parents' toxic marriage, they might feel rejected and uncared for. "Children are like sponges and they will absorb negative emotions and internalize their anger and shame," Terry Gaspard, a therapist specializing in divorce and the author of Daughters of Divorce, told HuffPost. "If they're exposed to parents who are chronically unhappy, kids will grow into adults who have low self-esteem and trust issues. An important question to ask yourself is, would the well-being of the children be enhanced by a move to a divorced, single-parent family? If the answer is yes, then a divorce can be advantageous."


2. They can get combative 

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When children are stuck with parents who constantly argue and belittle each other, they are also likely to emulate that kind of behavior. Instead, if they are in a calmer environment, even if that means two separate homes, it can make their emotional baseline calmer. The few months after a divorce can be difficult but after the transition period is over, people adjust to their new reality. It can create a happier and calmer environment for the kids eventually as they no longer observe negative emotions daily, according to HuffPost.


3. They learn to settle for less

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When children witness their parents settling for something that doesn't make them happy, they internalize the same for themselves. They might grow up to think that they too don't deserve happiness and just settle instead. "You're teaching them that it’s OK to settle for less than they deserve in relationships," Gaspard said. "Children who observe their parents settling for a miserable marriage might become passive, depressed or pessimistic about their ability to love and be loved in a healthy intimate relationship."


4. They might develop a fear of intimacy 

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One of the most heartbreaking consequences of growing up in a negative environment is being unable to form attachments. Children can fear opening up to anyone after witnessing their parents' dysfunctional marriage. They might subconsciously think that being close to someone translates to getting hurt by them later. So, they might also be the kind of person who leaves a relationship before they get hurt to avoid being in that situation.


5. They feel responsible for their parents' sadness

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Massachusetts-based psychotherapist, Betsy Ross, told HuffPost that no matter how much we try to protect our children from the arguments, abuse, and violence, they will eventually figure it out. "Even the youngest children can sense that you're suffering and that things are not right," she said. "Since children are naturally ego-centered and generally have the idea that they are more powerful than they really are, they are likely to think they've somehow caused your unhappiness and that it's really about them."

She adds that while no parent wants their child to think that, it may not be possible to do so as children are likely to think that they are responsible for your anger, frustration, and disinterest.

6. They might experience health problems later

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Witnessing abuse has the same risk to children's mental health and learning as does being abused directly. Being exposed to domestic violence as an infant can decrease the size of certain parts of the brain, which can have far-reaching consequences, as per USAToday. Even people who were born to moms that suffered violence during pregnancy were likely to have three times more inflammation than those whose moms were safe. The kids could experience mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and more, as per Womenshealth.gov.

Disclaimer: This article is based on insights from different sources. The views expressed here are those of the writer.