I wish your question was simple Tjames but unfortunately it is not. Children respond in their own unique way because they are individuals like we are. Now if you argue and fight in front of your son this can cause a child to become afraid but he will not know of what and insecure. It is a “trauma” on a child because they do not have the mental and emotional development to be able to think abstractly. So their little minds just know how to go to feelings like fear, insecurity, impending doom, and anger. As they grow these feelings stay with them but they don’t know why because again at the time they have no reasoning abilities of their own or the ability to put things into perspective. That is how we as adults have these “feelings” or reactions to things and we just don’t understand where they came from or why we feel them. It all goes back to childhood trauma. Trauma is played out in the body and in our feelings. So these traumas live on long after our ability to learn how to rationalize or develop a sense of self to separate us from the terrible feeling we are receiving. This causes the ramifications of parenting to stay with children for their whole lives with excess baggage that isn’t even theirs but was handed down to them by their parents who handed you and your wife’s baggage down from your parents. Some time the cycle needs to be stopped in the family patterns we set and our insensitivity to the amount of scary, helpless and fragile feelings of our children. We expect them to take whatever we are dealing with and either think they don’t understand or that they can handle it as long as they see mommy and daddy make up and be nice. That isn’t the way trauma works. Once traumatized by a situation or a pattern of behaviors this is incorporated into the Psyche of any person but it is especially hard hit on children. Because they have not come into developmental stages that would help protect them from just feeling these horrible feelings that they don’t know what the feelings mean but they know it is fearful, scary, helpless, want it to go away and anger to name some.
As we grow up in our teens we will start to develop the ability to differentiate between levels of trauma, or frightful things. We learn to figure out which ones are really serious, not so serious or just one of those things.
Your son has no way of knowing any of the coping skills he would have needed if he was privy to all that was going on during your crisis time with your wife. All he could do is see the two of you hurting each other which puts him in the middle by default and he feels helpless because he is just a little guy. He can feel helpless because he can’t save his mommy. He can feel anger because he can’t stop you from hurting mommy. And he can feel anger because of the dynamics that are happening are making him have to choose between you two and which one his is going to hurt for.
This is difficult at best and a nightmare mostly.
I would say if you carried out your marital problems in front of your son that he should be seen by a child counselor and let them help him work through his trauma now while he is young and he can learn to associate the feelings with the memories. Then when he grows up he will not have these deficits or worse inability to function at things because when he subconsciously relates what is happening in his adult life with his childhood he will not understand why he feels “afraid,” “angry,” or feelings of “despair.”
You would be giving him a great jump start on a good well adjusted adulthood and not end up on a therapists couch and not understand why.
So, take your son to his kind of therapist who relates to children and teens only.
Let them work him through the trauma he feels and learn to release all of it so he will not have to deal with all that baggage when he grows up.
Trauma can be healed by a therapist who deals in children so it wouldn’t take that long and it would be the best investment you will probably ever make in your son’s future.
I hope your marriage is on solid loving grounds now and that is what I would offer my son the same solid ground underneath his feet.
Good luck and thank you for writing.
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