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Baby Can Hear You Arguing

Most people would be amazed by how much an infant can absorb what is going on around him.

There can be a tendency to think that the tiny bundle asleep in the next room cannot hear the raised angry voices in the living room.

This week I met a couple who are the parents of a two month-old child. They obviously love that baby with all the passion that only doting parents can summon.

They love each other as well but they identified that they often argue and that the arguments can be loud and sustained.

"Can the baby hear you arguing?" I asked. They said they didn't think so because he was not in the same room and most of the time he seemed to sleep right through all the commotion.

I mention this case to make the point that infants are aware of what is going on in their environment.and it is important to recognize this.

Many people argue in their relationship and most people would do anything to prevent doing any harm to their child

An infant child is like a sponge, seeking every opportunity to absorb information that will support survival. They are listening, even from the other room.

In some cases, the arguing in the home goes beyond the occasional loud disagreement. As a society, we have expanded our definition of violence. We no longer identify violence as overt physical abuse. We know there are many ways to violently impact another person.

The vulnerability of children increases the risk of significant impact and a loud voice can cause great anxiety in an infant or a young child. Psychic trauma in infants due to witnessing (hearing) violence is a relatively new area of scientific study. The implications on the child's development are far-reaching. An infant is unable to express the trauma in words but there are symptoms that can be observed. These include hyper-vigilance and exaggerated startle. The baby may seem to regress or cling excessively to it's mother. Nightmares are a common symptom in children who witness violence. If the exposure to violence is prolonged the baby will most likely experience developmental delays.

The disturbance does not have to be in the home to cause distress in a small child or infant. Parents need to be aware of the level of activity and noise when taking their child out into the community. Children can become frightened and anxious if they feel threatened and if it occurs frequently they can begin to feel insecure.

We seem to live in a culture of ever-increasing violence. We are surrounded by violent images, excessive noise, television that streams reality violence 24/7, sports, movies, games and gangs. The exposure to violence is unprecedented. There is a belief that we are becoming desensitized to it. If that is so, we need to remember that the new born child does not have that tolerance. Parents, learn to talk in your inside voice when baby is in the house and keep the volume low for the sake of your sensitive child.

Deborah Joyce is the Executive Director of District 69 Family Resource Association serving children, youth and families in Oceanside. Contact her at 250-752-6766.