Individuals or couples, married, divorced or separated, many parents might have this in common: They want to feel more connected to the other parent. They understand that connected parents are not only more satisfied in their relationship, they also have a greater positive impact on their children.
So what does it mean to be connected parents?
Let's get one thing out of the way—connected parents do argue, they don't always see things the same way and they struggle. This makes them just like everyone else. What makes them different is how they get through these times of stress and conflict.
Connected parents have learned how to resolve conflict without inflicting more pain. They are playful. They present a united front, even if they are not 100% in agreement.
There was a time when my husband and I did not score too well on any of those criteria. While love is key to a relationship, it's not enough. We each brought our own family history, life experience and emotional needs into our marriage. Combine that with raising children (and their crises, large and small), paying the bills, and managing life… well, things got messy, and feeling connected was lost in the shuffle.
Looking back at those years, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been on our kids. When parents are floundering, where does that leave the children?
Why children are emotionally healthier with connected parents
Children thrive with consistency (the united front). They need to know where they stand and what is expected of them. When they play one parent against the other, that unity is critical. When they manipulate their way into getting their way, everyone loses. Parents who can argue without being mean, and make up fairly quickly, are modeling important relationship skills (conflict resolution). Children learn that it's okay to disagree, and they will still be loved. They feel more confident that their parents will be loving and supportive of each other and of them (even if their parents are no longer together).
Parents who can be lighthearted and have a sense of humor take some of the intensity out of life (playfulness). Being playful is a wonderful way to ease out of tense moments and release pent-up negative energy. It also teaches children about emotional balance.
Connection nourishes loving attachment and security. Children who see connected parents and feel connected to them feel safer. They trust that no matter what happens, their parents will always be there to listen, guide and support them. Where do you and your child's other parent stand on the connection scale? If things aren't going as well as you'd like, you can begin with the perspective that you're doing this for your children. It's a little bit of 'fake it 'til you make it' with your kids as your motivation. You might need some help; a parent coach (you know how to reach me) or therapist is a good resource. Connected parents are a key to your child's emotional health and growth. Be the key.
How to feel more connected
There are definitely things you can do to feel more connected to your parenting partner. The answers may be simple, but they aren't always easy. Some will take more preparation than others, and the payoff is priceless. See which one of these feels doable for you.
You've all heard about 'date night.' Once you get the logistics out of the way, this is a great way to take yourself out of your everyday responsibilities and remember why you came together in the first place! And do your best not to talk about the kids!
Whoever comes home first at night, make sure to give your partner the first hug and kiss. As a child, it was beautiful to see my father go straight to my mom when he came in the door.
This next tip comes from, researcher, author and speaker, Brené Brown. When you have a negative reaction to something your partner has said or done, go for an open mind and clarity. Assume that he or she had good intentions. You can open the door to a calm discussion with this statement: "The story I'm telling myself about what just happened is that.. " This is a loving and respectful way to admit that you've been triggered but may not have all the information. Everyone's defenses go down, and you can repair and connect again.
Originally posted on Fern Weis.