Have you ever wondered how couples end up in divorce? It is not always because someone cheated on someone else. Marriages can become stale. Couples can get stuck repeating the daily procedures of life without interacting. Some parents become so focused on their children that they neglect their marriage in the process. Neglecting to take time to focus on your marriage, your spouse, your connection to each other is the most common reasons for divorce.
Parents need time to alone to recharge, reconnect, communicate, and focus on their romantic relationship which brought them together in the first place. You can be a desirable, interesting marriage partner AND a good parent. You don’t have to choose between being a good parent and a good partner.
Here are 5 ways to help your marriage stay strong by building in couple time.
- Schedule a talk with you kids to let them know that you value your role as a partner and parent. Children look up to their parents as role models for relationships between two people that love each other. It is important that you show your children that relationships require intentional effort to maintain harmony, happiness, and love. It is also essential that children don’t feel that you love them any less when you and your spouse decide to spend time alone together.
- Schedule Alone time with your spouse. A marriage study conducted by the University of Virginia showed that married couples who devote time together at least once per week not only have lower divorce rates, but also increased the quality of their marriage. Couples were happier, more committed to their marriage, and more stable parents.
Put a weekly date night on the calendar. Hire a babysitter for the kids or ask grandparents or relatives to watch them for a while. Take turns planning your date nights.
- Schedule time for romancing your spouse. Few marriages will last without that “spark” of romance that attracted you to each other in the first place. You need time to get your flirt on. Remember the butterflies you felt in the pit of your stomach when you anticipated going out with your “date”? See if you can’t re-create that feeling by teasing your spouse a little, sending naughty text messages, whispering in his ear as he leaves for work, or leaving a note on her bedstand, letting your spouse know how much you are looking forward to you date.
Get a hotel room for the evening or let the kids spend the night at grandma and grandpa’s house. Dress up, even if you are staying in. Take your time building the excitement of exploring every inch of your spouse’s body.
- Schedule time to talk with your spouse out of earshot of the kids. By talking privately to each other and communicating openly about how they are feeling, spouses build strong bonds that solidify their commitment to each other. This is important for the inevitable hard times that hit every marriage. When either of you are at your low point, talking can help you pull each other back up. Open communication on a regular basis will help head off misguided expectations and strengthen your bond.
Get up before the kids and have breakfast together to talk about what’s going on lately. Meet up for lunch while the kids are at school and discuss something on your mind.
- Schedule time to de-stress and recharge as a couple. Life can get stressful in a busy household. You may be working later at work. The kids’ activities may be taking more time than they used to. Keeping up with household chores and routines may be tending to take longer than normal. If married couples do not make regular time to relax and spend some unregulated time together, they will be too burned out to function well as parents.
Take a relaxing shower or bubble bath together. Give each other a massage. Cuddle up and take a nap together.
Getting creative and fostering opportunities to spend some time together as a couple will strengthen your emotional bond and create the climate for a lasting, happy marriage.
In many marriages, one spouse does the lion’s share of the work in parenting the children. Your kids are the most important job you have as a couple. Parents have the responsibility of ensuring their children turn out to be solid, upstanding, productive people.
A wedding ring does not magically make a couple happy, stable, and child ready. Raising a child is not just providing the income to feed and clothe your children. Children require a solid, intact family structure and positive parenting behaviors to have positive impact on their present and future wellbeing. Parenting is a 24-hour endeavor that takes work from both partners.
How is your parenting going?
Are you leaving the heavy lifting to your spouse?
Do you expect your spouse to meet the kids’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs?
In a marriage, both parents need to pool their time, money and energy and make their children more of the focus of their home. If you are not used to being the one that tends to the children, start by asking your spouse, “How can I help?” When you get home from work, take some time to decompress and then offer to:
- Entertain the kids while dinner cooks, or
- Takeover “bath time” with the kids, or
- Help the kids with homework.
Both parents can bond with each other and the kids by:
- Teaching your kids household chores like making beds, folding laundry, picking up and putting away toys, taking out trash, washing dishes.
- Family yard work like raking leaves, pulling weeds, or planting or watering flowers.
- Playing games, sports, on playgrounds
- Working together in community projects
- Reading stories at bedtime
How much time do you spend with your kids?
Parenting does not come with a handbook. You don’t require special training. However, you may not know where to start. Most parenting behaviors are intuitive. Children do best in a stable family environment where well-adjusted parents have established consistent routines for the home. Think about what you wanted from your parents when you were a child.
- Unconditional Love. Children need to know that you love each other, and you love them no matter what the circumstances are. You children are watching how you treat your spouse and will someday model that same behavior in their relationships. Do openly hug and kiss? Do you speak affectionately to your spouse? Children need frequent hugs, kisses, and words of encouragement also.
- Talk with Your Kids. You can learn a lot about your child by spending time in conversation with them. Ask them questions on their level. What did you do today? How did your day at school go? What is your favorite princess? Who is your favorite superhero? Not only will you learn what your child is interested in, you will likely be entertained. “Dad, did you know they have lions, tigers, and “Pippohotamuses” at the zoo?”
- Teaching basic life skills. Children are not born knowing how to eat properly, clean their clothes, clean up their rooms, do their homework, and help around the house. It is the parent’s job to train and teach their children. Parents model and talk to their children about appropriate life skills. “Hold you fork lie a big boy.” “Hey, come and help me take out the trash.” “I want to show you how to wash dishes so you can start helping out around the house.”
- Get actively involved with your kids. Get involved in community activities such as soccer, cheerleading, gymnastics, or other sports, Take part in academic science fairs, debate clubs, or international days in local schools and other academic institutions. Volunteer for family projects to help the needy in the community. Remember that adage, “the family that plays together, stays together?” It’s true.
Overall, intact families, where both spouses share the parenting, tend to be more stable. Parents tend to be more involved in their children’s lives and are more highly invested in their children’s success.
“Dad, can I go spend the night at Jerry’s house?”, asks your eleven-year-old-son. “I don’t know Jerry or his parents, so I think you need to stay home tonight.” “Oh, honey, I know Jerry’s mother and they don’t live far. I think it would be alright to let him go.”, says your wife.
Does this sound familiar? Does your spouse frequently contradict you in front of the kids? Do you and your spouse argue over parenting decisions often? If you and your spouse constantly disagree on how to parent your children, resort to undermining each other’s authority, and contradicting each other’s words to your children, your marriage is in trouble.
The result of fighting over parenting is that your children end up confused about who to listen to. Each of you become ineffective parents. Your marital relationship suffers. At some point, you have got to get on the same page.
In every marriage, there will be disagreements over parenting. How you handle those disagreements makes all the difference. You need to learn how to resolve disagreements productively, calmly, and out of hearing range of the children.
Here are 5 ways to Avoid Parenting Fights
- Back Each Other Up
You and your spouse need to present yourselves as a unified team to your child, or it will undermine your authority as parents. Make it a rule that if one parent disciplines a child, the other parent must back it up, even if the other parent disagrees with the punishment. Later, you and your spouse can talk about alternate ways to handle discipline.
- Address disagreements with your spouse in private.
Every time you argue with your spouse over parenting, the focus shifts away from your child’s behavior. The more this goes on, the more your child learns that they can get around your decision by playing you against your spouse. Keep the focus on your child whenever your child is present.
- Listen to Your Spouse’s Opinion
This is not a competition. The goal is not to win the argument. The goal is to arrive at the best decision for your child and maintain harmony in your marriage. Say your 15-year-old daughter is invited to a party at a friend’s house. Your spouse is not comfortable with her going because they don’t trust the friend’s parents to supervise the party. You don’t want your daughter to be “labeled” by friends. Your spouse says, “I feel strongly about this, and I need you to support me on this. I don’t want our daughter to be put in harm’s way.” While you may not agree with your spouse, try to see their side of things, and agree to support them.
- Don’t Throw Your Spouse under the Bus
If you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on a parenting issue, do not tell your child that “Your Father says NO” or “Your Mother Does Not Want You to Go.” You are setting your spouse up as the Bad Guy or the Witch, while you appear to be their friend. You are avoiding hostility from your child at the expense of your spouse. Before you say anything to your child regarding a decision, discuss it thoroughly with your spouse and agree that while you don’t agree with their position, you will go along with their decision. Don’t break your rule of unity.
- Discuss Parenting Issues Calmly.
A discussion is two people exchanging ideas and listening to one another calmly and respectfully. If the conversation escalates into sarcasm, put-downs, yelling, or fighting, take a time-out from each other. Ask your spouse if you can discuss this later when you are both calm.
Remember that this is your family. Practice listening to each other’s point of view without interruption or reacting. Just listen. Then ask questions of each other. And talk about why this issue is important. Try to understand each other’s point of view and find common ground. Then ask each other “What can we do to compromise?”
When we were growing up, Mom and Dad held more traditional roles. Mom was typically a housewife and Dad the breadwinner and stern disciplinarian. Times have changed.
Moms have entered the workplace in record numbers, and Dads have become much more involved in parenting. Both Mom and Dad hold strong opinions about discipline, nutrition and diet, and safety. When they disagree about these issues, an ugly marital and family fight can erupt.
All parents disagree over parenting issues, but if parenting styles continually clash or result in extreme conflicts, marriages, and children's healthy development fall by the wayside. Now more than ever, a united parenting front is necessary.
How to Get Into Agreement on Parenting Issues
Your child has asked if they can watch one more TV show before bedtime. Your spouse comes in and turns off the TV and tells the child to go in and brush their teeth and get to bed. Tears and screaming bring you running into the room to find that each of you has confused and upset the child by giving them conflicting directions. It all could have been avoided by telling your child “ let me talk to your dad about it.”
Make a Disciple Plan together.
You can't anticipate every situation, but you and your spouse can sit down and discuss and agree on basic or essential disciplinary issues. Discuss with your partner how you both will handle your child's temper tantrums or bad behavior. Make sure each of you holds your child to similar rules and uses complementary styles of discipline.
Respect Your Partner's Point of View
Even if you think your partner's suggestion is ridiculous, he or she may have a good reason for making it. Listen and be respectful rather than becoming condescending and assume that you know what is best. Discuss some options that you both can buy into before making a decision.
Be Willing to Compromise
If you can't agree on a standard rule for everything, be willing to compromise once in a while. Take your husband's suggestion on an issue that you don't feel strongly about in return for him taking your idea the next time. Like everything else in your marriage, talking and compromising is vital.
Remember You are a United Front
Even if it took you and your spouse two hours to agree on a strategy; don't let your child know. Let them see that you are both on the same page. They will be less likely to play you against each other or argue with you.
We adore our children and feel such a sense of responsibility to them that we tend to make them the top priority all the time. As children grow, they understand our nature and often reinforce this by being “squeaky wheels,” demanding our attention. The challenge of parenting is providing structure and love for your children while at the same time carving out time for your marriage. Establishing boundaries can help.
Boundaries help define the line between parenting and time as a couple.
Some couples unconsciously let their children become the central focus of the household to such an extent that the boundaries between parent, spouse and child become blurred.
Helicopter parents do for their children what they can and should do for themselves.
When you become nervous about your child’s success or ability to handle things in school, with friends, in sports, etc. it’s natural to want to jump in and take control instead of letting your child work things out for themselves. We naturally want to make things better for our kids and “fix things.” However, when you don’t let your child work through obstacles on their own, you’re denying them the opportunity to learn how to fight their own battles.
Your job as a parent is to guide, coach, and teach your children. When you begin to do everything for your children, you’ve crossed the parent boundary.
Overindulgent parents give up their parental authority and allow their child to take control of the household.
Parents who strive to be their child’s friend have difficult putting their foot down and saying No to their children. They tend to have few rules, no consequences or punishments for poor behavior. Some substitute things for time with their children. Every parent wants their child’s love but indulging their every whim creates the opposite effect. Children crave and need structure via rules, a set schedule, and consequences for disobeying. The absence of rules and structure is neglect.
Your role as a parent is to be firm but loving to your children. Kids need boundaries. Without them they lose their way. They need clear rules and consistent consequences. But they need them to be delivered with love, understanding and kindness. Talking about the reasons for rules and consequences helps kids understand why they need to follow rules.
How to establish boundaries so you and your spouse parent responsibly but have time for yourselves.
Define your boundaries.
You need to establish physical and time boundaries that establish privacy.
- Your bedroom is a kid-free zone, free from kid clutter and designed for romance and couple time.
- If your bedroom door is shut, children need to knock on the door and wait for permission to enter.
- If you and your spouse are engaged in conversation, children should say, “excuse me” and wait politely for a chance to enter the conversation.
- No means No.
Make your expectations known to your children.
You and your spouse should make a list of what you can and can’t live with. What matters most to you? If respect is high on your list, you may want to implement a consequence for talking back to you or addressing you rudely. If responsibility is important to you than you may want to assign weekly chores and consequences for not doing them.
Praise their successes and follow up on their failures.
When your kids have a great week, make sure you let them know it. When one of your kids crosses a boundary or breaks a rule, follow up with the consequence.
Establishing boundaries with your children will make your household a more peaceful environment and provide clear time for you
After months of sheltering in place, couples and families need a break from the stress and strain of working and living under COVID-19. It is mid-summer and families everywhere are weighing the risks of taking a family vacation during COViD-19. Crowded beaches are not a wise choice, and traveling by air, especially internationally, has serious restrictions in place.
There are a few types of vacations that offer a safer, more isolated environment and a better chance of avoiding coming in contact with the coronavirus.
- Rent a house in an isolated beach or wooded area.
Renting a whole house via platforms like Airbnb and VRBO means you won't be encountering other guests or staff during your stay as you might in a hotel.
Safety tip: Even if the home appears to be clean, wiping down any "high touch" areas with a disinfectant is a good idea. This includes things like counters, light switches, and doorknobs.
If you venture out in public, continue to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
- Plan a camping road trip.
If you need to get out of town, a road trip is a great way to see the sites from the safety of your vehicle. Choose well-known campgrounds that have re-opened and have thoroughly sanitized facilities.
When you need to make rest stops, choose larger, well known chains or state-run facilities whenever possible, "which have adopted aggressive cleaning and sanitization protocols.”
Wear gloves to pump gas or use the rest room facilities and discard them before getting back in the car.
- Rent an RV or camper
Rent an RV or camper, which combines the self-contained lodging of a vacation rental with the sightseeing possibilities of a road trip.
Safety tips: Inspect the RV or camper thoroughly and wipe down all surfaces with a disinfectant wipe. Use your own linens on bed areas.
- Take a virtual vacation
If you live in an area with a stay-at-home order in place, or you're just hesitant to be out and about right now, take a getaway from the privacy of your home. World famous sites from London's Tower Bridge to Egypt's pyramids are offering free virtual tours online. Museums, zoos and aquariums are providing virtual guided tours or streaming animal cams.
After months of social distancing for COVID-19, families are still spending less time with others as the pandemic continues. Summer plans like group picnics, family reunions, festivals, long vacations can leave the family feeling disconnected to the world and disappointed. With friends and social outings limited, parents and children can react to stress with bad moods, poor behavior, and bad habits.
Here are three ways to brighten the mood and keep your family happy.
- Maintain a daily routine.
It is important to maintain bedtime, bath time, and other routines. Routines create a sense of order to the day that offers reassurance in a very uncertain time.
With the usual routines thrown off due to COVID -19, create new daily schedules. Older children and teens can help create schedules, but they should follow a logical order, such as:
- Wake-up, get dressed, eat breakfast, and some active play in the morning, followed by quiet play and snack to transition into schoolwork or an activity.
- Lunch, chores, exercise, online social time with friends, and homework in the afternoon.
- Family time & reading before bed.
- Deal with poor behavior positively.
Everyone in the family is more likely to be anxious and worried during the pandemic. Young children may not have the words to describe their feelings. Older children and teens may be irritable as they miss out on time with friends and special events have been canceled. They are more likely to act out their stress, anxiety, or fear through their behavior. Bad behavior puts stress on the parents and other siblings.
Reinforce good behaviors and discourage bad behavior. Pay attention to good behavior and point it out, praising success and good tries. Redirect bad behavior by finding something else for children or teens to do or removing them for the situation for a while.
- Get out of the house.
Just because we are social distancing, doesn’t mean you can’t go outdoors. Sunshine, fresh air, and exercise can brighten everyone’s mood. Try to spend at least an hour outdoors each day. Play outdoor games, do some outdoor yoga, go for a walk, set up the sprinkler or wading pool, or have a family barbecue.
With a little pro-active planning and positive attitudes, you, your spouse, and your family will manage just fine during COVID-19.
All too often, we assume that our spouse know that we are thankful for him or her and all the things that he or she does for us. Unfortunately, your spouse may not really know how grateful you are for them. Couples who show higher levels of gratitude for their spouse are less likely to seek a divorce. Believing that your partner values you has a big impact on how you feel about your marriage.
Studies show that there is not one key thing that makes a successful marriage. However, two little words can go a long way to actually strengthen your marriage and make your spouse feel valued.
Here are 5 ways to say “thank you” to your spouse.
- Do an errand or chore for them.
We all have chores or errands we don’t like to do. Do something for your spouse that you know they do not like to do. Clean the bathroom, take the car to get it serviced, and weed the flowerbeds.
- Give your spouse “gratitude gifts”.
Saying thank you is appreciated but showing your gratitude with a small little gift occasionally speaks volumes. It is not necessary to go all out with a big, expensive gift. Small gifts like a “thank you” note in his or her briefcase or lunch, or an intimate “thank you” dinner are enough.
- Leave little “Thank you for being you” notes.
Don’t just thank your spouse for what they do for you. Thank them for who they are to you. Leave a little note on their pillow or dresser or next to their dinner or breakfast plate thanking them for bringing joy to your life or always being there for you.
- Set aside time to listen.
We often get so busy crossing off our to do list that we don’t remember to just spend time with our partner listening to how their day went or a story they tell. Make it a point to make time to sit down and just listen to your spouse.
- Show them how you feel.
Sometimes a simple touch or act of intimacy can let your spouse know how much you mean to them. Pamper your spouse with a shoulder or foot massage. Spend time cuddling up on the couch in front of a warm fire. The small acts of touch enhance their well-being and let them know that you are grateful for them.
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