Children are very attentive little beings – you may say something once, but that memory will stick with the child for years.
This is one of the many reasons why it’s so hard to work through relationship issues when you have kids. They’re always picking up on what’s going on, and it can be even more work to try and hide the problems you’re having.
So what are the best ways to shield your children from your relationship issues? Read on to learn some helpful tips.
Try to Keep the Arguments Behind Closed Doors
While this is of course easier said than done, it’s worth bringing up all the same. Depending how old your kids are, you might be able to hide a lot of the animosity if you make a pact to only discuss your relationship issues at night, after the kids are in bed.
While your kids may be able to sense that something is off the rest of the time, at least they won’t have to internalize any anxiety they’re feeling if they frequently hear you yelling at each other.
Seek Outside Help
Many couples don’t want to involve a marriage counselor because they’re embarrassed to bring up their issues with an outside person.
In reality, therapists are not going to judge you or your problems (trust that they’ve heard worse!) They’re going to offer you support and ways that you can build your relationship and empathize with your partner.
Also, don’t be afraid to look beyond a marriage counselor if there are some deeper issues at play. For example, if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or trauma, consider seeing your own therapist separately. This person can help you work on your own insecurities that may be showing up in your relationship.
In the same vein, if there are larger mental health issues at play for you or your partner, don’t be afraid to look into more long-term treatment options, like a non-12 step rehab. A strong foundation of healthy mental health goes a long way in resolving any marital or relationship issues.
Don’t Villainize Your Ex
Say you do decide that it’s time to get a divorce or end the relationship. This is a very difficult conversation to have with a child, and they’re likely going to get upset. That’s okay – they’re allowed to be upset. Their world may be experiencing its biggest change to date, and that’s jarring for any human being.
Try to go in on a united front with your ex. If you can sit down your kids together, that’s a great plan of action. Reassure them that they didn’t do anything wrong (and continue to reassure them this, as kids often believe this is the case). Also remind them how much you both love them, and that nothing is going to change that.
Then, over the next week, months, and even years, try your hardest not to badmouth their other parent. Even if they are neglecting their parental responsibilities or being a complete jerk to you, stick to the facts and try not to add in much of your own commentary.
If you’re worried your kids will see their (lacking) parent in an unrealistic light, trust that your kids will mature into conscious adults – and they’ll be able to judge who their parent is – really – on their own.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
When our relationship choices affect our kids, we often feel guilty. That leads couples to just try to grin and bear it and be miserable themselves, for the sake of putting on a happy face for their kids.
Remember that open communication is key. If something is bothering you, let your partner calmly know about it. Small check ins throughout the day can go a long way in rebuilding a healthy relationship.