As parents, we do so much research into topics we think are important for our children’s healthy development. What is the best sippy cup to use? What toys should I be buying? What foods should they be eating?
These are all important questions, but there is one area that is easy to overlook – our relationships with the other adults around us. These relationships are not only important for our own well-being, but can actually have a huge impact on your child’s social and emotional development.
How our children see us interact with our partners, friends, and family members informs so much
about the world around them. By watching us, they learn how to show affection, how to express dissatisfaction, and how to generally communicate. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing our personal
lives as separate from the lives we lead with our children, but the truth is it will benefit our children if we are thoughtful and careful about how we approach the other relationships in our lives.
With regards to partners, it isn’t all about date nights and romance (although this is important for most couples). We need to feed and enhance the friendship, and have conversations that are about something
other than our children. Most couples already have weekly meetings or conversations to synch their calendars and determine who will be in charge of the various child-centered activities in the week ahead. The next time you have one of these conversations, try to include activities that involve one-on-one alone time with each other. Plan for activities such as date nights, but also include opportunities to engage in meaningful conversations: grabbing a quick drink, going for a walk together, doing a physical activity, or even just watching TV together. During these times, be careful of just discussing logistics, household duties, and kids. Try to talk about other things.
With regards to friends, it is so important to nurture these relationships. Once kids come into the picture, dynamics can shift with friendships. Talk about this with your friends so that you understand each other’s expectations and feelings. Remember, frustration is the gap between what we expect and what actually happens. By openly discussing the realm of possibilities, you are able to maintain friendships even in the midst of changing routines and life circumstances.
Here are some actions that we can engage in with people around us in order to maintain healthy, well-rounded relationships:
- Give assurances that your partner/friends are still special.
- Try to be upbeat and optimistic. Feelings of satisfaction are often based on a ratio of positives over negatives. When you are feeling low in the “positives” bank, purposefully take time to express a positive – to yourself and to others. This can come in the form of emotional support, validation, or compliments.
- Simple touch! Studies show that touching a partner increases oxytocin, which deepens feelings of relaxation. Simply holding hands or sitting next to each other can make a big difference.
- Become an expert listener. Whether you are focusing on romantic relationships or friendships, it is always good to remember that you are not the only person in the relationship. This sounds like such a simple fact, but it can be surprisingly difficult for us all to remember.
- Show a sincere willingness to work through difficulties.
- Practice compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness –towards others, your children, and most importantly, yourself!