Your relationship is such a vital part of how your children will feel about being a couple.
As parents, we are in a role of teaching our children so many things to help them prepare for adulthood. It is an important job, a difficult job and a very rewarding one. Our primary goal to to ensure that our children enter adulthood with sufficient skills in the areas of education, relationships, emotions and basic life skills so that they need to navigate successfully, both professionally and personally.family in sunset
Developing healthy, fulfilling relationships is perhaps the most important piece in experiencing happiness and contentment as adults. With a secure, loving and safe bond with another person, your child will feel supported and connected and able to manage the many challenges life throws his or her way.
People that report feeling connected to others also report a greater satisfaction in their lives. Knowing this, the role parents play becomes ever more central to helping children learn about healthy relationships, strong attachments, bonding, trust, loyalty and security. If children can develop a secure attachment to their parents or a primary caregiver, then they will have this as their template for their own relationships with friends, family and a partner.
HOW DO WE, AS PARENTS, BUILD A SECURE ATTACHMENT TO OUR CHILDREN?
1. Be a role-model - showing a caring, trusting, supportive relationship for your children is VITAL to helping them see and experience a relationship that works - one in which the answer to the question "Are you there for me?" is "YES!" This doesn't mean that you and your partner never argue or disagree - what is means is that when they see you doing this, you don't resort to saying terrible things to each other, hurting each other, physically, or giving the silent treatment. It means they see you also resolve the issue and make amends with one another and return to a connection and positive relationship.
2. Empathize and listen to your child's feelings - don't dismiss or discount their feelings. For example, if your son comes up to you and is crying because someone took his toy, reflect back to him - "You must be very sad about that. What do you need from me? Can I give you a hug to help you?". He'll feel that having sad feelings is OK and that you want to help him and are there to listen. This allows him or her to experience the feeling of "mirroring" where you reflect an understanding of his feelings. If this happens, he or she will know that they deserve that within a relationship in the future.
3. Be there when they need you - when your adolescent is upset about something - put down your work, ignore the cell phone, turn off the TV and just be there with your child - take the time to show you're available - even if they're not ready to discuss what's on their mind. Having you near by may be enough of a comfort and message that you care and are there to listen. You will be amazing at how often, if teenagers feel safe and secure, they will eventually open up to share their worries and concerns.
4. Create a "safe haven" - this means that a child learns that it is safe to share his or her attachment needs and fears - that you will not judge or criticize a particular fear (i.e. what if mommy never comes home?) or a particular need (i.e. am I really important to you? Do you really care?) When children can feel free to express themselves and feel secure in their relationship to their parents, they will know what it feels like to have a trusting, caring, supportive relationship.
5. Teach children how to "repair" or make "amends". One of the most curative and restorative aspects in recovering from an argument, disagreement or hurtful situation is to be able to ask for forgiveness, forgive the other person and to restore the relationship to it's secure, comfortable state. Children can learn this in many ways: watching their parents forgive one another and move forward; having a parent initiate forgiveness after a distressful interaction with their child; or helping a child make up with a friend so that the relationship can heal and move forward.
If we, as parents, can work on our own relationships and role model healthy interactions, connections and expressions of emotions and affection, then we will do our children a great service. As well, we can develop close, loving, caring relationships with our children which can be their template for their future relationships.
It's a wonderful gift to give our children: the knowledge and security that they matter to us, that we are there for them and that we believe in them.
This article was originally published at Marie Caterini Choppin Counseling for Contentment . Reprinted with permission from the author.