Remember Valentine’s Day back in the days before Diaper Genies and sippy cups? Back when you could afford to go out to dinner and you didn’t have to arrange a sitter? Couples have to adapt to the inevitable changes that come as we move from being romantic partners to having children and being a family. But does parenthood mean an end to romance? Love certainly survives parenthood a lot better in other cultures.
Here in North America, we subdue the needs of the couple and put our children first. Well, let me appeal to you then through your need to “do the best for your child”. Let me explain how your children benefit when you put the love and romance back on the front burner.
Children learn about the world by being keen observers. Their developing brain is working constantly to understand the world and its workings. Yes, they learn simple things like “that furry thing is called a dog” but because human beings are social creatures they are primarily concerned in learning about how people behave, how they get along with one another and how to treat one another.
Very early in life, children must create some belief or construct for the world and what is “normal”. "Normal" is what happens every day. "Normal" in brain-speak refers to what is recognized, not as odd, but as re-occurring and predictable. Our children will try to seek out and re-create "normal" as they build their lives. "Normal" says “life is as it should be”. If you grow up in Kenya as a Masai, you can bet your “normal” will be different than a child raised in New York City or Nunavut.
So ask yourself, what do your children see when they watch how their parents relate to one another on a daily “normal” basis? Is it loving and warm? Or is it icy and dismissive? Is it acts of helpfulness and caring? Or is it argumentative and sarcastic? Do they balk that Valentine’s is just a Hallmark holiday? Or do they say “This is the high holiday of love and I embrace showing my love!”
Forget about sitting your daughters down in high school and having the “you should find someone who treats your right” talk. She has long made up her mind up about how people should treat her from watching how you and your partner treated each other.
This Valentine’s Day, think of the kids and show them the relationship you would want for them. Show them respect, appreciation, co-operation and loving kindness. Gush on Valentine’s Day and decide it’s important enough to keep up all year long. Make it NORMAL. I have friends who start every day with a kiss and hug and they say to each other “I am so glad I have you – together we are better”. They enjoy a slow kiss and embrace each other every day after work. What a nice tradition for your kids to walk in on and have to see! I know, I know – they’ll say "Ohhh gross!" but they’ll probably grow up to pick a loving life partner who is as affectionate and intimate - and that is good parenting!
Happy Valentine’s Day.
About the Author:
Alyson Schafer is a psychotherapist and one of Canada’s most notable parenting experts. She is the resident expert on The Marilyn Denis Show, CTV News Channel and CBC’s The World This Weekend. Alyson is an “Ask an Expert” Columnist for Today’s Parent Magazine, and sits on the Health Advisory Board for Chatelaine Magazine. Alyson is the best selling author of “Breaking The Good Mom Myth” and “Honey, I Wrecked The Kids” and her latest, “Ain’t Misbehavin”. She is an international speaker including the inaugural TEDxKids in Brussels and offers free parenting tips at www.alysonschafer.com