Parents have many different roles and responsibilities when it comes to raising children. Too often overlooked is the importance of modeling for your children what a healthy relationship looks like. Parents are so caught up in arranging a world that is in orbit around their children’s schedules, that they miss one of the most important lessons of parenting. It is healthy to show your children that you and your spouse love each other and the life you have together, that is separate from them. A parent’s imperative is to raise children to feel safe and independent so that they grow up, go off into the world and have their own relationships and create their own families. If children believe that their parents’ only happiness is directly dependent upon them, it can interfere in their separation process. Our healthy relationships teach our children how to become loving partners, how to disagree without animosity, and how to sustain love through the marathon of marriage.
When you greet your partner at the end of the day, give each other a kiss before giving your child a kiss. Hugging your partner, dancing in the kitchen, laughing together all show your children that you have an intimate connection with your partner. Even if it makes your kids a bit jealous, or a bit embarrassed, the ultimate lesson is a positive one. The concepts of the oedipal complex or electra complex are the battles that your children need to lose. Children often go through a stage where they seem to be in love with their parents; little children talk about wanting to marry their parents, older children sometimes believe that they know how to take better care of their parent than the other parent. Making sure your children see a romantic, loving, commitment is healthy way to secure their independent, emotional development.
Many parents believe that you shouldn’t fight in front of your children. However it is actually better to show your children how to argue effectively and demonstrate that not agreeing doesn’t mean you don’t love each other. Of course it is better not to yell in front of your kids, but if it happens once in a while don’t over think it. Losing control is something else; raging or being physical is never acceptable. Children experience anger and frustration, just as their parents do, if you don’t show them that these are normal feelings, they could grow up feeling more confused about their own emotions. However, be mindful to protect them from issues that could raise their anxiety. Seeing you kiss and hug after an argument demonstrates that it is safe to have your feelings without losing love.
Taking time to go out without your children is very important for your relationship, as well as your children’s understanding of the need to nurture and tend to your love. Date night, weekend get-aways, even watching a grown-up movie in bed together all convey that your life, your love, your interests are worthy, necessary, and happy parts of your life. Single parents should not feel badly to take the time to date. Even if your kids have trouble initially accepting you with a new partner, they will ultimately worry less about you if they believe you have a companion in your life. You don’t have to share all the details of your dating experience with your kids, but it is okay to let them know that you are interested in having romance in your life.
Having children is a blessing, but childrearing is a long and consuming journey. Accepting that the health of your relationship with your partner is part of the process of teaching your children well will help create balance and harmony in your household. Don’t feel guilty for taking the time to show love and understanding to your partner, since that is actually a way of giving to your children too.
Leslie Fabian is a NYS licensed Individuals and Couples Psychotherapist with over 22 years of private practice. Leslie Fabian, MSW, LCSW, The Lighthouse Retreat and Wellness Center in Croton on Hudson, 24 East 12th St., New York, NY, [email protected], (917) 620-0524. lesliefabianlcsw.com & FB: Leslie Fabian, LCSW-R