Author: Shannon Miller
By Teresa Trower, LMHC, Self-Love Topic Expert Contributor
At what point did you make the decision to become a parent?
- Did you grow up with the intention that you wanted children?
- Was it something that you always knew and took for granted?
- Did you first consider it during an important romantic relationship?
- Or did you know for a fact that you didn’t want to be a parent with all of the joys and struggles that the job entails?
As a Guidance Counselor, I was often surprised to hear elementary school students reveal that they not only wanted children, but knew how many children they planned to have. This gave me some insight into the fact that they were, at least, nurturing souls and, at best, desiring to share the joys that they were experiencing during their own childhoods with their future offspring.
By and large, I believe that we project our own childhood experiences onto the next generation.
Those who experienced difficult childhoods in terms of parental abuse, painful divorces, or harsh conditions in general are more likely to prefer to avoid the whole experience. Further, the reasons for having children are many and complicated. Some have children mindlessly. “Uh, oh, I think I may be pregnant again,” while some struggle through endless in vitro fertilizations for the mere opportunity for pregnancy. Others want to extend the bloodline and to carry on the family name. One of my father’s greatest regrets is that he never had a son to carry on his name. After four daughters, they quit trying, but the regret is still firmly etched in his mind. So, the reasons for having children have many cognitive and emotional origins. What about the effect of parenting on the marriage itself?
Studies have reported that having children actually lowers marital happiness, but this is probably due to the distraction factor.
To keep a romantic relationship strong, the relationship itself demands ongoing attention. Like a flower that isn’t watered, a relationship will quickly wither from neglect. Children often enter the picture within a year or two after the marriage begins. The first year of marriage can be stressful because couples are adjusting to living with another human being and the normal give and take that this demands. Secondly, it is often during this time that the hormonal highs from the endorphins of love, or perhaps lust, begin to cool and each partner looks at the other with the thought, “Who is this person I married?”
It is at this point that the true intimacy between the couple has a chance to develop and percolate.
However, it is also at this point that a child may enter the picture, soon to be followed by another child. This is where history takes over. The inner mantra becomes, “That’s not how my mother did it. That’s not how we did it in my house,’ or perhaps, “I’ll never do to my kid what my parents did to me.” Thus, the newly christened parents become locked in their corners. They will either want to raise the children exactly the way they were raised, because, after all, “Look how well we turned out,” or they’ll do the complete opposite of their parents and swear never to repeat what was said to them. Of course, to their dismay, that is exactly what is destined to come out of their mouths because, in the heat of anger, the creative part of the brain shuts down and we repeat what we know.
So, what to do if you are engaged in parenting by choice or circumstance?
- First, give time and attention to your marriage. Your children will bask in the comfort of the love you generate.
- Secondly, remember, you are the experts in your family so develop your expertise by taking some parenting classes or reading books on the topic. Through this process, you will also come to realize that all parents struggle.
- Remember, too, that your children are individuals. No tabula rasa. They are born with their own temperaments and Myers-Briggs types. Be sensitive to their differences.
All kids crave structure.
- All kids want to know up front what the consequences are and trust that you’ll enforce them.
- All kids want to be given choices rather than demands. Save the demands for the big stuff.
- All children want to feel like a part of something larger than themselves, such as a family, and cherish the family traditions that you create. Remember, you’re making memories.
- And finally, don’t forget to notice and affirm good behavior and the things that you like about them. Kids misbehave to get attention so give attention for the good stuff. This way, you’ll see more of it.
TIP: When your children are successful and happy, you’ll feel more self love because you’ll know you’re contributing to future generations of well adjusted children and happy adults.
Courtesy of Teresa Trower, LMHC Find more information about this topic on www.GoodTherapy.org.