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Published February 29, 2012, 11:30 PM

Helping kids when marriage is on the rocks

To young children, parents are all-knowing beings who can do no wrong. When there are upsets in the family, children are prone to blaming themselves, in an effort to understand their parents’ behavior.

By: Priscilla J. Dunstan, McClatchy-Tribune News Service (MCT), INFORUM

To young children, parents are all-knowing beings who can do no wrong. When there are upsets in the family, children are prone to blaming themselves, in an effort to understand their parents’ behavior.

All marriages go through ups and downs, but when there are children involved, it’s wise to be aware of what they experience, and how they will internalize the stress. With this in mind, you can help reassure your children that all is well with the world around them and that they are loved.

Tactile children will become more clingy when there is an upset in the home, and you may very well find yourself feeling very stretched with all the extra hugging, wrestling, sleeping with and cuddling demanded by your tactile child. In these situations, appeal to your tactile child’s love of activity and plan a few special trips to the park, play a game of basketball or go bowling. Organize play dates and get them involved with what tasks you need to get done. If you need to cook dinner, have them help, if you need to write up a report for work, have them do some Internet research for you. This type of helping activity allows your child to be with you, but doesn’t make you feel stifled.

Auditory children listen to everything. If you have found that, even through you thought you were careful, your little one has heard your argument, it’s best to address it directly. Discuss the situation without blame. Acknowledge the less than desirable situation, and explain that upsets happen to everyone, and that it is how we deal with them. Moving forward is what matters _ use words to describe how to resolve a difference in opinion. Auditory children can be little parrots so it’s always best to address anything they may have heard in a positive way, so that more problems aren’t created by a misheard conversation.

Visual children will be aware of every frown and nasty look. Angry faces are scary for any child, but to the visual child even more so. They may need to have some time drawing out their feelings, so when you see pictures of sad and cross faces coming home from school, it’s a good idea to check what your child is seeing during your disagreement. A visual child is very conscious of others’ perceptions, so try your best to turn up and be pleasant at their ball games and events even if things are strained between you and your partner.

Taste and smell children seem to have an uncanny knack of knowing when there is a problem between parents, no matter how hard you try to hide it. They will tend to react by becoming clingy and difficult, almost as if trying to diffuse bad feelings, by having it be directed at them. Subconsciously, these children’s natural inclination to loyalty will lead them to prefer to take the blame themselves, rather than have someone they love get in trouble. It’s important to talk to your taste and smell child as a unit, and both show them that Mom and Dad still love one another, even when they have a difference of opinion.

Children have a predisposition to self-blame and don’t have the life experience to know that a disagreement is a temporary situation that will be resolved. Reassure them together that you still love each other and, more importantly, them, and things will be back to normal in no time.

Priscilla J. Dunstan is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Priscilla and her parenting discoveries at www.childsense.com

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