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Teen Health

When Parents Argue

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Does it seem like your parents argue constantly?

Say you're in your room relaxing, reading a magazine, and listening to your iPod. In another part of the house, you hear a conversation. It starts softly, but gradually gets louder and more intense. You turn up the volume on your iPod as you hear all-out shouting. There's the bang of a fist on the countertop; the crash of a dish on the floor. More loud words, angry words, even cursing. Your stomach becomes a knot, and you think, "There they go again!" Your little brother comes running into your room, tears in his eyes and fear on his face. You hold him until things quiet down.

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This kind of scenario happens more often than you think. Sure, it's normal for parents to argue now and then. Parents can disagree about many things, from finances to how to raise children. Some disagreements might be big, like over whether to move to a new town or take a new job. Some seem small, like those about what's for dinner or whose turn it is to take out the trash.

In most all families, arguments happen. But violent arguments like the one described above are upsetting.

What Happens When Parents Argue?

Most of the time, parents can disagree with each other and still manage to talk about it calmly. Other times, parents disagree strongly and they argue. Someone has called arguments "fights using words." The old saying "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me" simply is not true. Words can hurt.

When parents argue, it's normal for teens to worry. When parents yell, young people feel afraid, sad, and upset. Sometimes arguments use silence -- when parents express their anger at each other by not speaking. Silent arguing can be just as upsetting as loud arguing.

Sometimes the argument is about the children. This might cause teens to feel like they are to blame. But parents' behavior is never the teen's fault.

What Does It Mean When Parents Argue?

In addition to feeling guilty about their parents' arguments, young people often fear that their parents don't care about each other anymore. They may fear their parents will get a divorce. Even though divorce is common, arguments don't necessarily mean that the parents don't love each other any more or that they're going to divorce.

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