The do's and don'ts of adult conflict in the presence of kids, with marriage and family therapist Chrissy Powers

voices of your village Sep 20, 2018


In today’s episode, I was so jazzed to chat with Chrissy Powers, a hilarious and vulnerable marriage and family therapist with three tiny humans of her own. In this episode, Chrissy shares her advice and wealth of knowledge on balancing the crazy worlds of parenting and co-parenting. Chrissy and I got so real during our chat, I couldn’t wait to share this one with all of you!

Chrissy is a mom of three, a 7-year-old, 3 year-old, and a sweet ‘lil 3-month-old who she held during our chat (and who can be heard chiming in from time to time!). She has been a licensed marriage and family therapist since 2010, after her first babe was born she began blogging her truths of motherhood and parenting and absolutely fell in love with it. Being able to blog about the first-hand reality of being a mother and a wife as well as what she was learning through her work as a therapist really helped grow Chrissy into the absolutely dreamy conflict navigator that she is today. 

“Conflict is a good thing for kids to see because it is something they are going to encounter, especially if they end up in a partnership and want to make it work.”

Chrissy answered your submitted questions about conflict, jumping right in by sharing that it is impossible to not have conflict in front of your little, so let yourself off of the hook if it has happened to you before! Chrissy shared that when spousal conflict has arisen in front of her children she is clear with them that she and their father let their “big emotions” get the best of them. This conflict can feel a lot like a tantrum, something all tiny humans can relate to, relating the idea of conflict to their own emotional expression can only help them process it all. One thing that Chrissy is working on is pausing in the moment before co-parenting conflict arises in front of her kids, then after processing the situation on her own she pulls her husband to the side to let him know what she saw happening so that they can have a fully realized conversation without it escalating to conflict.

Chrissy believes that it is healthy for kids to see conflict. What is most important about it, she told me, is that you resolve the conflict and your children can see an apology and growth. Chrissy asks her kids for forgiveness for her imperfections, and this admittance will only add to their toolbox when they enter their own partnerships. One thread of conflict that can be tugged on is the gender role expectation put on heterosexual co-parents. We talked about how this can alter parenting styles and what that does to a child processing multiple flavors of comfort and guidance at once. This can become a sticky situation to navigate. We agreed that a major way around this is to have communication between co-parents about parenting style when you are not in conflict, so conflict need not arise.

We dove into the importance of processing conflict. Chrissy explained this process by diving into the two types of emotion: primary and secondary. Secondary emotion is what you feel first, ie. anger. Primary emotion is what you are truly feeling, ie. embarrassment that causes the anger. Recognizing when you need to pause to process your emotions surrounding potential conflict on your own, even by physically removing yourself from the situation for a minute, can be a crucial first step.

“You are viewing your spouse with a monster suit on and until you take the suit off you can’t resolve the conflict.”

Chrissy ended our chat by resonating the importance of therapy. If co-parents are really struggling with their shared philosophy, then enter into the discussion together! Something as simple as reading a parenting book together or listening to the same podcast, whatever it takes to ignite that productive parenting dialogue. 

“Therapy is like brushing your teeth, it’s a preventative measure.”

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