Remember the days before having kids? No pressures. Do what you want, just you and your partner.
Enter the children. Juggling schedules. Competing demands for time. No privacy. Relationship stretched to the limit.
Many parents forget that in order to give to their kids, they must give to each other first. When parents do give to each other first, it’s as if they are recharging their batteries and, as a result, have more energy to give to their children. The challenge for some couples is the belief that they cannot find time for each other, or that if they do find the time, nobody will be available to care for the kids.
Time, being an elusive commodity, must be scheduled. Just as the kids’ activities are scheduled and occur without interruption, so must time for the parents. When parents consider their time as sacred as the time for the kids’ activities, they are more likely to have time for themselves. For many parents, even the thought of taking time can be overwhelming. So if this is how it feels, parents are advised to start slowly, maybe scheduling their time together at least once per month to start.
If babysitting is a concern, parents can consider grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, a responsible teenager or even a friend.
With a little creativity, it’s always possible to find moments for each other. Rather than weekends or evenings, perhaps there is time for breakfast out or even lunch while the kids are in school.
If money is an issue, quality time could mean a bike ride or a walk together. At issue here is investing in the parental relationship. When parents don’t take time for themselves they increase the risk of drifting apart, which in turn can undermine their relationship – something definitely not in the kids’ best interests.
Parental bonds need to be as strong and secure as parent-child bonds. Parents who take time for each other have the opportunity to catch up with each other, reflect on their personal and relationship needs and then those of the children. They can keep the spark in the relationship and provide a great role model to their children by showing how parents can get along. Investing in the parental relationship also sets a boundary between parents and children. Children see their parents are a unit, and they are less likely to be able to divide and conquer parents who are close, loving and caring to each other.
Want to help your kids? Make sure you top up the battery in the parental relationship so that as the children draw on your energy, you have something to give and a way to recharge again.
Everyone will be better off for it.
Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW, is a well-known Canadian social worker, author and television personality. Courts in Ontario consider him an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report. He is author of the book Raising Kids Without Raising Cane: A guide to managing children's behaviour in helpful and healthy ways! To learn more, visit www.yoursocialworker.com.