Tolstoy once wrote that ‘all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in their own way’. He reflected upon the idea that happy families share a common set of attributes that create cohesion and happiness, whereas unhappy families are caused by unique circumstances. It made a great opening line to Anna Karenina, but it is not at all a steadfast principle. There are several common circumstances that can affect children in different ways.

1. Parental Conflict

Healthy parental conflict is not about loud, violent, or aggressive disagreements, which are considered as abusive behaviors. Most parents know that engaging in abusive or aggressive behaviorwith their partner will affect their child. Parental conflict in this sense instead focuses on frequent low-levels of parental conflict, something that is common in many family homes. While it might seem meaningless, frequent below-the-surface conflict has apropensity to affect children’s wellbeing and long-term development.

Low-levels of parental conflict can include bickering, eye-rolling, ignoring, or poorly resolved disputing (like just walking out). Research has found that chronic interparental conflict can lead to enduring mental health problems in children such as depression, anxiety, sleep issues and behavioral problems. Reducing this type of encounter can help your child to feel more emotionally secure.

2. Divorce

Divorce can be a very stressful and upsetting situation for children, producing feelings of rejection, anger, anxiety, and withdrawal. However, there are ways to mitigate its impacts on children. As point 1 outlines, even low-level frequent conflict can impact children’s wellbeing. So, staying together unhappily is often no better than separating.

The key is to manage the separation, which can be done in a number of ways. Firstly, it is important to manage custody issues in a way that does not overly involve the children, which can be highly damaging to their development. According to Sean Smallwood, P.A, who is a divorce and family lawyer, child custody and support issues are the most common legal issues for divorce attorneys.

After resolving these issues behind closed doors, it is then time to focus on creating a ‘new normal’. Both parents should aim tocreate a routine where each sees the kids as much as possible. It is also important to avoid negative talk about the other parent when the child is present.

3. Distance

It can be difficult for parents to find a balance between their work and home lives. While of course you need to work to be able to support your family, it is important that you do not become toodistant from your children. Not seeing very much of a parent can affect a child in a number of ways.

A recent study highlights the very important cognitive effects of young children spending time with their mothers. The studyanalyzed representative data from more than 8,000 children and their mothers over several years. It found that being away from mothers significantly negatively impacted their academic performance. Famously, Rutter found the sooner an orphan got a parent figure, the faster their developmental progress.

The importance of children spending time with their parents does not only apply to young children and their mothers. In fact, the effects of absent parents can be felt right into the late teens. Often parental distance causes feelings of low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and rejection.

4. Financial Instability

Financial instability can affect children in a range of different ways. It is common for financial instability to cause parents to experience higher levels of stress. Children can pick up on these raised stress levels when parents are less patient with their children or exhibit a change in mood. Mood changes can be highly damaging to children, even verging on abusive.

Financial instability can also impact a child’s wellbeing as they spend less time with parents that need to work more. Researchhas found that children from families that regularly experience financial instability receive lower scores in vocabulary tests, teamwork, concentration and other areas.

5. Sibling Bullying

It is easy for parents to view sibling bullying as a normal part of growing up and family life, but sibling bullying can cause long-term issues for children. Sibling bullying can have both long and short-term effects on a child. A few of the shortterm effects of sibling bullying include low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety.

Research that looked into the effects of sibling bullying on 3,600 kids over the course of six years, found that it can have devastating longterm effects. The study found that kids who are bullied by their siblings are three times as likely to develop a psychiatric disorder during adulthood.

If you are worried about sibling bullying, the study offered parents warning signs that they should look out for:

A child has expressed fear about being alone with their sibling.
A child avoids being alone with their sibling.
The aggressor has verbalized jealousy or hostilities towards their sibling.
The victimized child has bruises or marks.

If you are worried about sibling bullying, encourage open communication, discuss equal love and zero violence tolerance. Define boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Set clear and firm rules. Work on having quality time with each child on their own to work on trust and bonding.