Arguing is inevitable. Conflict and disagreements are expected and sometimes necessary for change. However, how we model this to our children is very important and integral for their development. Inevitably, it is how they learn what healthy conflict is and how to respond to their future partners.
Think back to when you were a child. You may have felt and experienced contention, fighting, or tension amongst your parental figures. Now think about how you would have wanted your parents to respond in those moments? Or, what they could have done even after they took time to reflect on those instances? What would have brought you peace and a sense of renewed connection about those moments?
Parenting on Purpose
Parenting on Purpose is all about being mindful of what we exemplify in our behavior and how it will affect our children, ourselves, and our family dynamic in the future. Whether you remain with your parenting partner in a romantic relationship or not, teaching your children and modeling healthy conflict remains an essential pillar in their overall development.
Last week, we introduced our theme for January, “Fresh Start.” When I think of connecting with our children in a fresh start mindset, one of the ways I think about it is a “fresh start” after there’s been conflict or a disagreement.
A “Fresh Start” After Conflict
Lately, what I noticed is the power to come together and apologize for my part in a given situation. Whether it’s my professional life, a problem at my practice, or a scenario at home, an intentional effort toward a fresh start when there’s conflict goes a long way. An example of this in my personal life is when I start moving towards a “fresh start” by apologizing to my partner if there’s been conflict between us and asking if he hears my apology. I will even ask if he believes it is genuine. Then, I look at our son and tell him I am sorry for how I talked to his father and that I am sorry if how I spoke affected him in any way. Then, as a family, we give each other a big hug and a kiss, and man, can I tell you how healing that is?!
As I stated above, conflict is inevitable and a normal part of relating to one another. It does not have to be traumatizing to our children, and modeling conflict positively is part of a growing relationship. If you struggle as a family to have healthy conflict, it’s ok. Learning to communicate is hard work. However, you can do it, and you can experience deeper connections within your family dynamic between yourself and your partner and children.
10 Tips for Parenting on Purpose
Here are my top 10 tips for this week that you can apply in your efforts to connect on a deeper level with your family. Practicing any of these is a beautiful way to create connections and model a “Fresh Start” for your children.
- Set boundaries around what a fresh start looks like to you and have an honest age-appropriate conversation with your children.
- Respect your child’s need for a sense of peace and calm during moments of disagreements or conflict. Our children’s faces and body language will tell us when they are dysregulated and uncomfortable.
- Have a set Family Night. Make it intentional and regular and to be expected. A family night is excellent even for non-romantic parent partners. If you need ideas on fun family nights, check out this article.
- Remember to keep it simple; the healing, the apologies, and the conversation around a fresh start as a family. KEEP IT SIMPLE!
- Have dinner together more nights than not. Please DO NOT allow your teenager to eat in their room. Even if conversations aren’t happening, sitting together in a peaceful quiet is still a connection.
- Give love and support to yourself, to your parenting partner, and your child. When you feel like correcting something or being right, be loving, and give support instead.
- Unplug from being a “PARENT” for a moment and take time to recharge! Additionally, showing your child funny childlike behavior and having fun goes a long way in connecting with them, and when you feel refreshed as a person, this becomes much easier!
- Practice active listening. Listen to gather information and not to fix a problem or offer advice. Listening is a vital part of communication and even communicating in conflict. If you want to research a little more into active listening and how you can apply these skills, click here.
- Watch your tone and the volume of your voice. We can disagree without it going to yelling and cursing. If you find yourself and your emotion escalating, walk away, or take time to distance yourself from the situation or conversation so that you can gather yourself. AND afterward, take time with your children to explain what was happening and why you decided to get some space.
- Use your time in the car together wisely. Listen to a book on tape, podcast, or a favorite album. Keep conversations calm and happy. Be intentional about making it a fun time! Don’t use the car ride time to lecture or discuss issues. It isn’t an environment for a real connection with your kids.
How intentional can you be, and what scenarios can you apply a “fresh start” mindset in your family dynamic? These are just ten tips or strategies to get you started. Make your list and begin with a Fresh Start today!
Don’t forget to follow our monthly themes for connecting more intentionally this year with your kids! You can do this by following me at:
Maurissa Szilagi, Senior Clinician, is an Associate Clinical Worker specializing in attachment issues, connection with others, trauma, foster care and adoption, and family counseling. She is in private practice at Vander Hooven and Associates. Maurissa earned her Master of Education in Psychology and Human Development from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. She also earned her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Southern California. She has extensive experience in foster care and adoption attachment counseling, as well as providing one on one coaching and counseling with individuals and families.