The real cradle that holds the baby is the emotional climate between new parents. Many significant social problems [like violence] in our society can be traced back to this negative emotional climate in families.John Gottman
I often tell couples who are struggling with the needs of a child who that are consulting me about to take care of their relationship…to nurture their marriage. One of the most powerful gifts that parents can give to their kids is a solid relationship between mom and dad…but NOT as “mom and dad”, but as “husband and wife”…as “Jim and Mary” or “______ and ______” (insert names here).
I’m not talking about “staying together for the sake of the kids”…that sort of togetherness is hard on kids. I’m not even talking about having the same mailing address and living as roommates. I’m talking about the real investment in engaging in a relationship that is rich.
- modelling to children what healthy “angry” looks like, what affection and warmth and closeness is like
- resolving conflict in ways that has children feel safe and secure
- having children know that they can face the challenges of the world because their “home base” is solid and safe
- creating an environment that children can observe all aspects of a loving relationship…to know what relationship repair looks like, to observe the possibilities of apologies and how that creates positive shifts
- a home climate where cooperation, respect, and warmth is a “no brainer”…it might looks loud and chaotic or quiet and subdued…there are lots of ways this sort of climate can be expressed.
When it comes to life, most of what children learn from their parents isn’t “taught” (shucks…makes the last lecture you gave after he blew it yesterday feel like a whole lotta hot air). The most significant way parents influence their children is by what is “caught” by the children as s/he watches how you relate to others over the years.
Does that make you go “GULP”?
Another quick tidbit for thought:
This is very real stuff…you alter your child’s stress hormones with a conflictual marriage. You, as a couple, affect your children’s social skills and their lifelong ability to be successful in general…and certainly specifically, in their ability to engage in a successful lifelong partnership.
Your child’s urine tells the tale of how well you as parents are getting along. Measure the amount of adrenaline in their pee, and the researchers will know.
This is the “big picture” of staying together…your children will “catch” what relationships look like by watching you…and this isn’t just reflected in how they relate to others…the climate of your home will shape their little souls in ways that will impact every area of their inner and outer lives.
Not trying to “guilt” you into working towards a healthy relationship with your spouse…but I am giving you something to think about. Are you and your spouse “on top of your game”? Does it need some preventative maintenance, or even an overhaul to be in a place where you can provide the sort of environment your children will flourish in?
Investing in your marriage, finding ways for you to ensure your spouse feels loved and cared for is one of the most important ways you can help your child. Nurture your child by nurturing your marriage.