In my practice, in addition to seeing individuals and couples, I see young kids and teenagers. I see them routinely when there is marital discord or a divorce occurring in the family. Also, I see them when they are having emotional, behavioral, relationship, or academic problems.
When I see these young people they afford me significant insight into themselves, the family unit, and their parents’ marriage. The success and ultimate happiness of an individual is significantly influenced by his or her parent’s marriage.
Let me tell you about Sean (real person, fictitious name), age nine. Sean came into my office one day, closed the door, talked softly, and said, “I don’t think they can hear me. They’re still doing it – fighting. I’ve tried everything I can to stop them. I’ve even tried puppet therapy to get them to talk to each other nicely. I don’t think I’m going to be successful.” He then lowered his eyes with a sad expression on his face.
Talking to Sean was like talking to an adult. He analyzed his parents and tried to fix them. He was the “parent” trying to stop the “kids” from arguing. While he was pre-occupied with his parent fix it role, he was devoid of friends, emotionally shut down, and underachieving in school. Because of his parent’s fighting he had lost his childhood!
“When a baby comes into the world her brain is a jumble of neurons, all waiting to be woven into an intricate tapestry of the mind. … It is the experience of childhood, determining which neurons are used, that wire the circuits of the brain as surely as a programmer at a keyboard reconfigures the circuits of a computer. Which keys are typed, which experiences a child has…determines whether the child grows up to be intelligent or dull, fearful or self assured” (Newsweek, “Your Child’s Brain,” Feb. 19, 1996
It is the role of the parents to configure their child’s brain. When parents fight, kids (babies through adolescence) feel the stress, shut down emotionally, and become insecure. Their brain “wiring” is affected by this turmoil. Emotions are the energy of behavior. Feeling this stress, kids tend to get out of balance at one extreme or the other.
Depending on their age kids become depressed, belligerent, or become a “pleaser.” They inappropriately experiment with drugs, sex, or alcohol. Academically, kids do very well for a while or significantly underachieve. Sibling order can be important here. Much of the negative “wiring” oftentimes does not “break out” until the teen years.
Ask your children if your arguing, occasional or frequent, bothers them. They may tell the truth or protect your feelings. Kids often do take care of their parents’ feelings. Look into their eyes when you are arguing and you will see significant pain or anger. It is important that parents know their children’s perception of their marriage.
The bottom line is that aware, loving, and knowledgeable parents can “wire” their child’s brain in such a manner that their children can be emotionally secure and successful, not having to worry about their parent’s marriage. Your child deserves to see and feel the love you have, or can have, for each other.
Give it your best shot!
Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web site: drstathas.googlepages.com. Blog: drstathas.com