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Jude's avatar

What do you say to a seven and a half year old when they ask you why their parents fight?

Asked by Jude (32112points) August 19th, 2010

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

12 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

“some people love each other but have a hard time getting along. And it is between Mom and Dad, and not about you. They each love you in their own way.”

SuperMouse's avatar

“Everyone is different. Your parents love each other very much and love you more than anything, but sometimes even when people love each other they fight.”

Your tags include divorce, so if this fighting is escalating to that level, my response might be different. In that case I told my own seven year-old that we got married and had his brothers and him because we loved each other very much and that those boys are the best things that ever happened to both of us. I also explained that while we tried and tried to iron out our differences that sometimes two people are just not capable of making things work and staying together would cause more conflict and pain and more hurt for all of us. I continually, to this day, make the point that he was conceived in love and that it is not his fault that his father and I are no longer together.

ftp901's avatar

I’m not sure what to say but you should definitely say something. I experienced this at that age and is VERY scary for a kid.

Something like what @zenvelo said above. That it has nothing to with them and you acknowledge that its scary and you will try to be stronger and work through your problems in a more healthy way.

Jude's avatar

Thanks for everyone who has answered. Normally, a question like this would get a bunch of responses. Where the hell is everyone?

wundayatta's avatar

I think that a lot of it depends on your relationship with the child. If what you say gets back to the parents, it might be the end of your relationship with them.

I always figured it was up to the parents to tell the kid what is going on, buy then so many families are dysfunctional, and so many parents don’t even know how to understand their own situations.

There are so many theories to guide us here. There’s the “it takes a village” theory; the “tell them as much as they can handle” theory; and the “always be honest” theory. I think they are all relevant, but the honest one is hard when it comes to other people’s kids. The village one is had when the parents are going to make you suffer later, or it could be the end of the relationship. Of course, knowing what they can handle ain’t easy either.

It also depends on facts of the situation. I’m going to assume the parents are fighting all the time.

I would tell them that there are times when people don’t know how to solve their problems just like kids. When they fight all the time, they might be unable to stay together, which is a scary thing.

It has nothing to do with you, nor is there anything you can do about it. They will try to take care of you, no matter what happens. You will be ok.

Of course, it all depends on how the conversation plays out, and the age of the kids, and your relationship to the family. In the end, I think you have to trust your instincts, although if you have an opinion with respect to the three theories, that can guide your intuition.

wundayatta's avatar

it’s been quiet all day, @jjmah. Maybe everyone off on vacation.

wilhel1812's avatar

Well, I’m no parent, but I remember that when I was a kid and my parents had a fight I always wanted to know why they were fighting. The times I did get to know it felt good, and I understood why they fought. It felt bad when I didn’t get to know. I know they were just protecting me, but I felt that I was left out of the family while they were fighting.

This will probably wary from fight to fight and from kids to kids, of course. But I would try and explain as much as possible to your kids. If he is seven, i think he will understand more than you might think!

Seaofclouds's avatar

I think @zenvelo and @SuperMouse on are the right track. I would tell the child something on those lines and then I would mention to the parents that their child was asking this question. Perhaps the parents don’t realize the child is hearing them arguing. I would try to be as tactful as possible and just say something like “I want to tell you something that Johnny and I talked about today. He asked me about…” and then explain what happened and what you said so that they can build on it from there. They may get embarrassed or defensive. If they do, I would just tell them that I’m not judging them and that I just wanted them to know that their child was concerned about it.

I think the quietness might be related a little bit to the “questions for you” thing not working correctly. It makes it seem like there haven’t really been any questions asked.

perspicacious's avatar

Any two people who spend enough time together will eventually have an argument. It doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. Kids can get that.

MissAusten's avatar

I guess it depends on the frequency and severity of the fights. If they’re basic disagreements that happen from time to time and don’t escalate to screaming matches, name calling, or throwing things, most kids will do fine with a simple explanation. My husband and I don’t fight very often, but when I get mad I cry and when my husband gets mad he yells. To the kids, it looks like Daddy is mean and Mommy is sad. I just explain to them that even adults get frustrated and angry and sometimes take it out on each other. We still love each other, and always work out the problem. We both also explain to the kids that sometimes when we don’t sleep well or are feeling stressed out, we overreact to things.

If the fights are more serious than that and degrade to name-calling, or if one parent is enlisting the child as an “ally” to be on his or her side, the child might have a harder time dealing with it. I’d make sure to tell the kid, “You can always talk to me and tell me how you feel. I’ll listen.” Let the child know that whatever they’re feeling is OK, and help them find ways to express it. A journal or sketchpad might help. Like others have suggested, I’d reinforce the idea that Mom and Dad’s problems aren’t the child’s fault and the child has no responsibility to fix things or solve those problems. If you promise not to repeat what the child says or tell the parents how the child feels, respect that and keep it to yourself. You can’t solve the problems either, but you can be a steady, supporting, nonjudgmental presence during a difficult time in a child’s life.

JLeslie's avatar

When a niece of mine was very upset her dad was yelling and her parents were fighting, I told her I know it can be upsetting, my parents fought a lot also. She was stunned. I think she thought she was the only girl in the world who had fighting parents. I don’t know if I helped her, but what I have observed is my friends who think they had shittier families than most, they seem to be more angry and live in a victim mentality, and have little sense of humor for the quirks and dysfunction we can find in many families. I am not talking about ignoring major abuse of course. I would also give the child opportunity to tell me how they feel when their parents fight, and reassure him/her that fighting does not mean something really bad will happen. Really at seven I guess you have to keep as simple as possible, I might have gone on too long for a seven year old.

I might also give the parents a heads up that they should not be fighting so much in front of their child, and maybe suggest they make sure the child witness them telling each other they are glad they were able to resolve the issue. That is assuming these parents are not completely a mess.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

“We’re all humans and we often have disagreements while trying to understand each other. Most of the time it ends up well. We’d like it better if we didn’t do often or loudly. Disagreeing is natural but name calling is hurtful and wrong.”

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