We all want our children to be happy and have healthy, loving relationships. While you may feel lucky enough to have a wonderful loving adult relationship, most of us struggle in our relationships from time to time and we worry about how that will impact our children's ability to create healthy relationships in their own lives.
Whether you believe you are a good role model or not, there are some things you can do to help your children learn how to navigate their own relationships. The most powerful way to teach children how to create healthy relationships is through your relationships with them. Your relationship with your child is the most important teaching tool.
Here are 10 things you can do to help your children learn the art of relationships:
1. Listen to them.
Teach them how to listen by actively listening to them. Commit to understanding exactly what it is that your children want you to understand and test out that understanding to make sure you got it right. Active listening is about honoring the speaker's intentions, not your own.
2. Let them know no one is perfect.
Watch your expectations and how you react to their "less than perfect" behaviors. Focus more on what your children do right and respond rather than react to what they do wrong.
3. Practice honesty.
Be honest at all times. Teach them the power gained with honesty and integrity. Children know when we're telling them a lot of baloney. Use appropriate language for their age but make it honest and keep it real.
When you make a mistake, own it, apologize, and let them know you'll do better next time. This is a powerful way to role model, taking full responsibility for your feelings and actions as well as acting as a great reminder for item number 2.
When you respond in a non-defensive manner, it creates more connection, trust, respect, and effective problem-solving.
5. Forgive them.
When your children make mistakes, remind yourself that no one is perfect and forgive. Use their mistakes as an opportunity for them to learn something new or remember something old. Teach them that forgiveness is really an act of self-love. It enables you to let go and release your energy for more constructive and empowering interactions. Forgiveness is a must in all
6. Take responsibility for your own feelings and reactions.
Don't take responsibility for their feelings and reactions and never make them feel responsible for yours. Children need to learn how to manage their own feelings without blaming others.
Children also need to know that they are responsible for their actions and its impact but can never take responsibility for healing another person's feelings. People can only do that for themselves.
7. Allow them the opportunity to deal with disappointment and loss.
Life is full of them. Sometimes you have to say "no" even when you want to say yes. Don't try and fix things or make life perfect. Even if you had the power to do so (which you don't), it wouldn't be in their best interest to do so. Learning to deal with disappointment and loss is incredibly important.
8. Give them the opportunity to make choices whenever possible and live with the consequences (both good and bad).
Choices replace ultimatums. Understanding this will serve them well in future relationships. Even as adults we need to communicate choices to one another rather than ultimatums. Choices are powerful, ultimatums aren't. It's all in the delivery.
9. Accept and celebrate your children for who they are, not who you wish they were.
We are always sending subtle or not so subtle messages on who we really want our children to be — what career, hobbies, friends, likes and dislikes — so monitor this and make corrections when needed. Everyone wants to be understood and accepted for who they are. We thrive under these conditions!
10. Let your children know how much you love them every single day.
Find the ways that feel best for your children and demonstrate your love in the ways that feel best for them. Even when your adolescent is rejecting you, don't dismiss their need for love. Sometimes when we feel the need to push our loved ones away is the very time we want and need them to stay close.
Be the anchor your children crave. Be the love they hold in their hearts.
Again, your children learn the art of relationships from their relationship with you. So throw out the "do as I say, not as I do" routine and start creating powerful relationships with them. I promise this can be done. I'm here to help. Please feel free to send me your questions.
Julie Orlov, psychotherapist, speaker, and author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery
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