Healthy relationships and parenting are huge undertakings and whilst tough, can also be very rewarding. All our relationships require work, and even with the best will in the world, there is no way to prepare for parenting, which means there is a lot to learn there too.
Fortunately, making mistakes and learning as we go is what life is all about. This is worth remembering as we attempt to raise a new human in our home environment until they become an adult. By which time we hope they are ready to take on the world and we can continue enjoying our closest relationship with our partner.
1. Combine warmth and structure
To your partner – Show warmth by scheduling your free time, so your partner can have some time away from responsibilities with your child. This will show that you appreciate the hard work she is putting in and to show your gratitude and love for each other. Your partner needs to know they are loved, but how to show her you care will depend on her personality. She may want to be taken out to dinner, be given a piece of jewelry or simply given the afternoon off.
To your child – Children need both affection and structure to eventually become secure, happy adults. Warmth comes from parents, teachers, and friends, but the core structure/ rules should mostly come from parents. Some psychologists suggest that warmth must override structure as it lets the child know that you will always have their back. However, other studies have proven that children raised without discipline or rules are ill-equipped for the adult world. Whilst those raised in a very structured way may be less happy as adults but are better equipped for adulthood.
2. Keep the future in mind
For both partners and children, pick your battles wisely and assume that all are doing their best. With children, praise accomplishments to build their confidence and also let them do things independently, so they feel capable and strong.
Make time to nurture your relationships. Make one-on-one time with your partner so that you have a strong connection once the children have left home. Also spend time enjoying your children, so that relationships are strong and connected into adulthood. Eat meals together and attend events to maintain that connection together. Notes in their lunchbox or a quick hug can go a long way.
3. Be committed
Everyone has a unique experience growing up, and the best we can do is follow the best examples we have. This means swift consistent discipline if the limits you have set have been breached. This could be a warning first, followed by consequences such as a “time out” or loss of privileges, but whatever it is, this must be consistent.
Your child will learn a lot about how to act by watching their parents keep a commitment to treat the child the way you expect other people to treat you. Good communication and the ability to be flexible will help here.
Expectations should be very clear, and if there is a problem, you need to be able to express your feelings and together work on a solution. Make suggestions and offer choices related to consequences. Try to be open to your child’s suggestions since children who participate in decision making are more likely to carry them out.
4. Imperfection is OK!
Acknowledge that you are an imperfect parent who has strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing your strengths, your dedication, your love, your patience, and accepting that you will work on your weaknesses whilst at the same time being realistic in your expectations will make all your relationships happier, with everyone involved.
Balancing your family and your relationships can be exhausting. But with a little effort, the rewards will far outweigh any short term pain.
For more great parenting and relationship advice, check out the other blogs on Cyber Parent.