There might be many times you hide from your children. Like when you have a monstrous candy bar and you want to enjoy it without sharing. Yes, we’ve all been there, lying down in the tub with the lights off hoping they don’t detect the distinct opening of the wrapper. There are, however, other things that your kids should absolutely bear witness to — especially when it comes to the interactions between you and your significant other.
Kids learn from observation. When kids feel secure and feel stability at home, their emotional and physical development benefit greatly. As a couple, you have so many opportunities to reinforce security and stability simply by how you interact with your partner.
Your kids should see you and your partner doing these things at home:
- Being affectionate towards each other
- Arguing and more importantly, repairing
- Complimenting and encouraging each other
- Showing emotions, especially crying
1. Show PDA!
Don’t hesitate to show some PDA in your home. Affection is important for your children to witness and be part of with you and your partner. This is how kids learn what a loving relationship is or is not. Additionally, research shows that kids with affection in the home grow up happier, more resilient, and less anxious as adults.
2. Arguing is OK, Repair is Crucial
It’s okay to argue, but even more importantly, your child needs to witness your repair. Healthy ways of disagreeing with your partner can role-model effective communication and the management of different opinions. Not only does your child benefit by developing healthy coping skills, but also you and your partner experience the benefits of physical affection, like hugging, after an argument. For instance, your mood is elevated and you will feel more positive; oxytocin, the love hormone gets released which, in turn, decreases cortisol levels (stress hormone).
- Apology is a prerequisite for healing
Besides physical affection as a repair, an apology is a prerequisite for healing. Apologizing is important in the repair process and is an essential skill for your child to learn from you. When you can take responsibility for your part in an argument, it will help healing and forgiveness. If you need help in crafting a meaningful apology, these tips are a good place to start.
- Compliment and encourage each other
Most couples I have worked with in therapy state they feel under-appreciated and taken for granted. When those feelings are prolonged, distance can grow and we all know that kids certainly pick up this type of tension. Instead, work at naming out loud a compliment or express encouragingly something that you notice—your partner will appreciate the recognition. Plus, your kids will pick up on the sweet and sincere expressions and will reflect that back in their behaviors as well.
- Emotions are necessary in developing essential life skills
If you’re not so comfortable with emotions, you’re not alone. Many of us grow up not knowing how to express our feelings. We were taught not to show sadness, not to cry because “crying is for the weak,” and we should be happy all the time. Let’s be clear — this is impossible because we are human. As humans, we feel and we feel a lot. You have a wonderful opportunity to show and normalize that feelings are good. There are lots of books, one I particularly am fond of is Permission to Feel by Dr. Marc Brackett, that helps name emotions and give you plenty of reasons why you should feel and show your feelings. Therapy is another way to help us feel and learn to express our emotions in a healthy way so we can role-model to our children and help them develop these crucial life skills.
If these sound like good ideas, but you are a little stumped on how to start implementing the things your kids should see into your daily routine, start small. It starts with your couple relationship, so talk with your partner and let him/her/them know how important this is to you and that you’d appreciate their support in creating a healthy culture in your home so that both your relationship and your children can thrive.
Need a little help implementing? Don’t know where to start? Therapy can help. If you’re curious how therapy can help you and your partner get on the same page, find a therapist near you. I’m a therapist in AZ and my practice specializes in relationship health—you can find me here.