I love it when my 4 yr old daugther says, ” Mom is pretty huh Dad?”. She is learning some of the most successful lessons I feel I can pass along as a parent. So often in family/couples therapy I hear comments about how horrible each other is, and these comments are made in the presence of children. This is undercutting the parents, and even worse teaching chlidren this is what they have to look forward to in a relationship. The great news is I do see some kiddos respond in a very resiliant manner and not want anything to do a with this type of relationship and search for healthy interactions…. but this is rare when bad examples are shown.
Let’s be real… our divorce rate is too high. It is imperative that we start passing along to our children tools so they can keep healthy relationships together. This takes work, which I hope does not scare you away! 🙂 I want to propose 5 simple things that children need to see in their parents, in order to gain a better understanding of a healthy relationship and have the assurance that their parents are anchored and strong!
1. Whether or not you like physical touch, you must touch each other in appropriate ways! This can be as simple as holding hands in public, giving a hug when greeting each other at the end of a work day, or putting your hand on your loved one’s shoulder when giving a compliment. Make it a point for your children to see this happening from a young age. It is important for kiddos to see what is appropriate touch. Keep it G rated!
2. Kiss! I am not saying you need to make out, but seriously kiss more often. Offer a kiss with a compliment so children can associate a kiss as form of showing affection vs. a form of “getting some” or going to first base. Teach the meaning through example!
3. I have heard way toooo often, “oh we just don’t like to say I love you ever.” No! NO! NOOO!!! I have done enough grief therapy sessions to understand that people just wish they could say “I love you” one more time or wish they would have said it more. Not only does your spouse need to hear you say, “I love you” but so do your kids. When you say it take a second and stop. Dont’ just say it while running out the door mumbling assuring those were your last words, which isn’t bad, but you can do better! While at the dinner table take a second to say something like, “Man mom rocks. I love you honey.” That is very simple and can make a difference.
4. If you know your spouse has had some extra stress offer a head, hand, back, shoulder, or some kind of appropriate massage. It doesn’t have to be long but just something simple. This is great for your spouse to also see that you don’t only give a massage when you are wanting to initiate sexual intimacy. Keep it simple! Teach service through positive and clean display of affection.
5. Jot a special note down. Write something simple, such as, “You’re awesome… I hope today is great for you.. thanks for your support in everything. You are the best!” Or, whatever you want! Make it brief and simple. So often notes are only written on a birthday or apology situation. Have your kids sign it and write a couple words!
The main focus of this is that we need to show our children what is a healthy relationship through appropriate public display of affection (PDA). The more they see that no matter how difficult times are you are in still in love the more safe and comfortable they will feel. In fact, they will feel a strong sense of self-confidence. They will be less likely to experience depression and anxiety. They will be more likely to show affectoin in appropriate ways to their friends/family. They will be less likely to objectify humans and get wrapped up in pornography. They will be more likely to have healthy and long lasting relationships. Let us not continue this trend of “Do what I say and not what I do.” Instead, let’s say, “Look we are not perfect but we love each other and like to show each other just how much we do.” Don’t think you are less of a man if you show PDA… this is simply unacceptable… and really shows how uncomfortable you just might be with your masculinity 🙂 Wow… cannot wait to hear about that comment!!!