I bet you have often wondered how your relationship with your mate impacts your children. I am sure it has crossed your mind multiple times especially during a family crisis, feelings of depression, or maybe because of the tension that you are trying to shield your kids from. Whatever the reason, let’s talk about it because if you are a parent I am sure you have wondered about it from time to time. As you can imagine family psychology stresses that your relationship with your partner is extremely important. Gone are the days and the beliefs that children should be seen and not heard and that couples’ fights don’t impact children. The relationship between parents needs to be strong, one with similar goals and lots of love! So what does this mean? Basically, lead by example, make sure your goals are in alignment with each other, and manage your conflicts. Let’s take them 1 by 1.
Leading By Example/Role Modeling – Ok, leading by example… In theory, it seems pretty easy, but it may also be easily forgotten because of our emotions in the moment or just dealing with so many demands in our lives and when you add children, that stress rises 10-fold. In essence behaving with your partner how you would like your children to behave is a good way to think about it. This may look like being affectionate both physically and verbally, showing appreciation, using a particular tone of voice or word choice, and expressing your feelings among many other things. Modeling behaviors would definitely be an excellent way to demonstrate a healthy relationship. Here is food for thought… What better way to show your children what a loving relationship looks than to be loving, affectionate, silly, and happy with your partner in front of your kids?
Aligning Your Goals – As individuals we enter relationships with goals, dreams and aspirations. Then, we connect ourselves with another, which makes for 2 sets of goals and dreams, yours and mine. When a couple gets together they create a third set, called the couple’s goals and dreams. Goals and dreams can be big or small. They include everything from family, roles, expectations, career, rituals, traditions, etc. Add children to that recipe and those couples’ goals take on a whole new meaning. Aligning your goals as a couple may be tricky because as individuals we are ever-changing. We are growing and learning new information constantly. Society is growing and changing around us. New ways of doing things are revealed. This leads to changes in beliefs and thoughts. When 2 parents can demonstrate interest, investment, love and support to each other they are aligned in their goals. When parents can come together for the betterment of themselves, each other, and children and find ways to support what is important to one another that is awesome! Now, this doesn’t always mean that you have to like or agree with certain things, but it does mean you show genuine interest and support. It is also important for couples to have conversations with one another and update each other from time to time. I must emphasize that this means frequent check-in with your parenting partner! When it comes to parenting, discussions about feelings, plans as parents, short-term and long-term goals, and discipline should be topics that are visited from time to time and at different stages because what works yesterday may not work next month as circumstances change and knowledge increases. These dialogues with your partner create clarity, strengthens your bond, and increase relationship satisfaction, which may decrease family and relationship issues. Ask yourself, if you are in good space with your partner do you parent better? If something comes up and you’ve already proactively come up with a plan to address the particular issue, is it easier to manage when other issues arises?
Managing Your Conflicts – There is a belief somewhere out there that it is good for parents to fight or argue in front of their children as a way to help them learn how to problem solve. Let’s look at another idea, shall we… Do your children interact with other children/peers? Most likely your answer is yes and if that’s the case then it is a safe to say that they will have conflicts with them. Whether it is a problem with random kids on the playground, close friends, or with their siblings, they will work to figure it out on their own. Now, I am not saying that the way they chose to deal with the conflict is always the best. But, what I am saying is that it is helpful when parents talk it out with them, help them problem solve what happened, give them suggestions about what they can do differently, explore if an apology needs to be made, etc. You want this interaction to be a positive experience for your children. If you have a good relationship with your partner you can also defer to it, something like, “well, when you see me and Mommy argue about who is going to eat the last piece of cake, what do you notice we do?” Don’t jump in and give them the answer. Wait and let them answer. When we constantly give children the answers we don’t allow them to think for themselves and yet, we get mad at them when they won’t. When kids are able to resolve conflict in a positive way on their own, help them highlight what worked, celebrate it with them. It is so important for them to do so. Kids don’t necessarily need family help with solving those conflicts. Of course, intervene if you think there is an issue with safety.
All in all, the answer to the question of how important your relationship is to your children is that it is vital! Your children’s sense of safety comes from having a secure parental unit. Their primary lessons about communication, relationships, trust, and love come from you as parents. So be mindful parents and partners and live every day to the fullest, love wholeheartedly, and be expressive!
For fresh, fun and clever ideas on family therapy techniques or ways to strengthen your relationship with your parenting partner, please contact me at Katie@FamilyandCouplesCounseling.com.
* This blog was written in collaboration between Katie Lemieux, LMFT and Emlyn Whipple, MA.