Kids scream and cry and yell and get hungry and get thirsty and need attention. During family time, couples can feel very distant and unsupported which negatively affects all members of the family. We have all been there.
It is family time and your child asks you for something that has already been vetoed by your partner. Rather than agree with your partner, knowingly or not, you may give a different answer. Something so simple and easy to fall into can cause a massive rift between even the closest of couples. That said, here are five ways to connect even when chaos has taken on the form of your children.
One – Hug, Embrace, Touch
One of the most therapist-recommended practices for grounding oneself is physical contact. On a personal level, when life is getting overwhelming and anxiety is taking over, feel a soft blanket, put warm slippers on, go outside and feel the wind on your skin, etc. Feeling a physical connection can take some of the “unknown” or “unfamiliar” out of your anxious situation, leaving you with the grounding you need to get through.
If that works for you, it will most definitely work for your partnership. If kids are running around you and your partner are getting frustrated, touch them. Give them a hug or ask for one. Put your hand on their arm. Remind your partner that you are there for them as it is very likely that they need that reminder if you did.
Two – Form an Alliance
We know not every situation in your family and with your kids is pure chaos, but in those times where it feels like the kids are against you then everything seems against you. Rather than assuming fetal position and taking on a victim sense of the world, form an alliance with your partner.
Although your kids are your everything, it’s important to remember that you and your partner are a team. Many times, the stress and frustration of being a parent can create division within your relationship. When you see this happening, take a step back and reunite as a team. As such, you must work together and help support one another in times of need, especially when the little one hits stride into the Terrible Two’s.
Three – Match the Chaos
No matter the age of child, drama often takes over interactions. Toddlers scream and throw themselves on the floor when you put peanut butter in their PB&J, teens ignore you and whine to their friends when, God-forbid, you ask them to put down their phone at the table. People are dramatic – kids are no exception. So, rather than let them carry you down, match their drama and do it with your partner.
When your child is throwing a fit about something you all know is silly, throw a fit with them. When your child is truly angry, and you are too, match it and treat it how you expect them to. Of course, you are not going to handle it immaturely, but you can handle it at the same level.
For example, when your six-year-old is angry at you for telling them for the 13987923429th time to eat their food, it is perfectly ok to voice, “You are making me upset because you are not listening and not helping me take care of your body. I need to go take some time to myself and I would like your [mother’s/father’s] company to help me cool down.” Then the two of you can leave the room or leave the table or leave the situation and cool off however you see fit.
Four – Take Time together
Though taking time together can definitely prevent distance during family time, no matter how calm or volatile, I am referring to taking time together during the family time. Needless to say, this doesn’t mean take a date night during your weekly family movie night or something of the like. Instead, try taking a one-to-two-minute time out to just be. Even a few seconds to check in, whether verbal or not, can make all the difference to your partner and your relationship.
In the morning, instead of listing a verbal “Honey-To-Do” list, ask how they slept. While the kids are interrupting to ask for more syrup or where their shirt is, ask them to wait to place the importance on what your partner is saying and get back to them after your partner has been acknowledged. Often times, just knowing that someone is there for you, thinking of you, recognizing your presence and state of mind can make all the difference when dealing with even the mundane aspects of family life.
Five – Plan Fun Together
Contrary to the tone of this post so far, family life is not always messes and tantrums. Family is the most fun and free thing in the world if you let it be. Rather than have all the fun while your partner is busy or working or away, plan fun for the whole family. The dichotomy of “fun parent” and “disciplinarian” only exists if you and your partner let it. If you tend to be the parent that is more willing to throw a dance party in the grocery store, engage your partner so both of you are hosts. Conversely, if you tend to be the parent that always says “no” because your partner won’t, let your partner say “no.”
No matter which parent you are, plan times for the entire family to come together and have fun.
Family-time can be stressful but it doesn’t have to be destructive to your relationship. Coming up with ways to value your partner and maintain the friendship that bound you two together in the first place is essential to creating the chaos-lacking, fun family that we all dream of.