How can parents support children when a marriage turns rocky?

Anyone who has been married knows that marriage is not easy. Marriage is especially difficult when you and your spouse have trouble parenting, managing money or are experiencing life transitions. But how can you help your children through this time without too much disruption?


Do make an agenda

Rather than spewing words at your spouse as you walk out the door or rush to your child’s soccer game, take the time to write down what you want to say. Then save it for a time when you can communicate patiently. Often times, writing down exactly how you feel diffuses the anger and allows for a more productive interaction.

Do practice good self-care

Being part of a marriage does not mean letting yourself drift into oblivion. The best way to be a healthy couple is to be a healthy individual. Get sleep, eat healthy meals and exercise. Taking good care of yourself means being the best you that you can be.

Do speak respectfully to each other

Children model their parent’s behavior. When you and your spouse don’t speak to each other with kindness and civility, children will act out with their siblings and peers. Children learn social behavior at home. No matter how hard it is to talk to your spouse kindly when you are angry or tired, do your best to table the conversation until you can speak to each other with respect.

Do find time to communicate without your children around

Rally friends, a babysitter, another parent or family members to help create time when children are not around to discuss more heated topics. Children become anxious when they hear parents argue. Often, children feel responsible for the argument and powerless to resolve it.


Do not forget to make up

Have your children witness the make up after an argument. Allowing children to see you and your spouse work through a difficult time shows them how to resolve conflict.

Do not change children’s schedule or routines

Children need schedules, structure and routine when couples and families go through transitions. These routines allow for stability during stormy times. A routine is something a child can count on and helps when there is additional family stress. Keep meals and bedtimes consistent.

Do not take out your anger on your child

Give yourself a time-out when you are angry with your spouse. Children are very aware of how parents feel. Even when it seems like the child is oblivious to your feelings, the child gets it and feels it. It is very important explain that sometimes you get mad or sad, but you are working through it and your child is not responsible for how you are feeling.

Do not talk about your spouse with your child

Keep discussions about your spouse for your therapist, friends or supportive family members. Talking about your spouse with your child when you are angry or disappointed only confuses your child and makes them feel like they need to take sides. Your child loves both parents, but will feel as though he or she must choose who to support.

Jumping cartoon

Life can be challenging and marriage is difficult. Marriage with children is even harder. It is impossible to agree with your spouse about everything. There are days when agreeing with your spouse about anything seems as likely as a snowball surviving a Florida summer. It is important to provide stability for your children while you and your spouse work through challenging life issues. You and your spouse are the models for children to understand conflict resolution.

Take time to think through how you are talking to each other daily, be mindful of each other’s feelings and bring your best self to the marriage. Your, your spouse and your family are worth the time, energy and respect it takes to stay steady when life gets rough.

More expert advice about Tackling Family Problems and Conflict

Photo Credits: © goodluz -; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Julie Marks Kotler, LCPC, LCPAT, ATR-BCLicensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Registered Art Therapist

Maintaining relationships, being a parent and getting all you want out of life can be challenging. Finding balance can be the difference between happiness and dysfunction. In my practice, I work with you to help develop creative strategies for d...

View Full Profile