If you ask someone, “who ends up in a Vermont couples counseling practice?’ you’ll probably hear a variation of the answer, ‘couples in need of some relationship help’. That’s an accurate answer, but today we wanted to discuss one specific reason couples may struggle: parenthood. Regardless of the other stressors in your relationship, you may notice that parenting decisions and the problems that children are working through can be a recurring point of stress in your adult relationships. Think about how many times an issue of a child’s behavior (or your reaction to it) can lead to a tense conversation between adults. Your whole life changes once children are in the picture and your relationships become tied up in the new life you’re all living together.
Today we’re looking at a few ways that we’ve seen communication and problem solving skills evolve in our Vermont couples counseling practice, helping couples strengthen their bond and work through parenting problems together.
Defining Parenting Goals Together
As a couple, your goal is to raise children who are prepared for the world around them. That means they need to have the social, emotional and financial ability to make a life for themselves. You want to provide your children with the same tools and guidance you were given, and your ultimate goal is for your children to grow into responsible, intelligent individuals who will succeed.
One conversation that couples can have in the setting of a couples counseling session is: what is on your goals list?
Is education important to you both? What kind of education?
Is religion an important part of the children’s upbringing? When and how should that begin?
Is it important that your children grow up in a certain community…whether that’s family, sports or faith-based?
Your children may or may not be enthusiastic about all of your goals, but if both adults in the family are dedicated to meeting certain goals, they’re more likely to be achieved.
Understand Each Other’s Stressors
We’ve all faced a time when something that is simple for you is difficult for someone else. If you’re on the ‘easy’ side of that equation, you might not even recognize that it can be difficult…it comes so naturally to you. If that skill is basketball (for example), the person who finds the sport difficult can just choose another activity without much consequence.
What if the situation they find difficult is family gatherings or setting consequences for unacceptable behavior from a child? That gets a little more tricky and it’s important to show empathy and kindness when talking about each other’s stressors. First, each person needs to recognize what is easy or difficult for the other person. Maybe spending hours alone with the kids is no big deal for one parent but is exhausting for another. Conversations about these kinds of issues can help with day-to-day struggles, and can open a window into each other’s perspectives.
Expectations for Parenting Roles
If you’ve been parents for a few years you may be finding yourself (intentionally or not) sliding into parenthood roles. One of you might be more likely to play games and have fun. One of you might be the one to keep everyone on schedule and do chores. If those roles work for everyone, that’s great. In some cases the roles we slide into aren’t ideal. Maybe the parent in charge of keeping the schedule would also like to be the one having some fun. Working together with your Vermont couples counselor, you can create strategies that add flexibility to your parenting roles. Sometimes a little planning ahead of time can help break the patterns up when you need to.
To recap, Vermont couples counseling doesn’t have to be just about the couple, it can be an ideal setting to work on issues related to parenting or other issues common in long term relationships. Using the listening and conflict resolution skills common to couples counseling, you, your partner and the counselor can identify the issues you’re struggling with, find strategies that create change and hopefully move your household toward a little less friction. All families will experience conflict and differences of opinion but with some help you can learn how to work through your issues rather than bump against them over and over.