Have you ever heard that therapists are only interested in your past? This is a common misconception. Some therapists are particularly interested in in how your past impacts who you are today. My approach takes a balanced view, giving equal importance to all things past, present, and future. Sometimes it’s really helpful to look at the past, to get clear about its impact on our present, and how we can create the future we want. Thinking about how your childhood affects your relationships is an important part of that.
How Parents’ Relationships Impact Children
Have you read The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read by Philippa Perry?
If I had to choose just one book to recommend to parents, it would probably be this one.
One of the many things I love about it is how the chapter on relationships between parents – whether they’re together or not – is called ‘Your Child’s Environment’.
This is so true: the relationships between us create the atmosphere in our homes. This is the environment our kids grow up in, and which we all live in.
It’s worth taking the time to think about the relational environment you grew up in, so you can do your best by your own children.
And it will also help your relationship with your partner.
Because each family member is part of a system where we all have a lot of impact on each other.
Some of your childhood experiences probably feel miles away from our modern world!
But your upbringing will still have a huge influence on how you are with your kids. And this is true whether you want to emulate your parents, be different from them, or a mix of both.
Plus most couples disagree about parenting sometimes. And these issues are easier to resolve when we’re aware of our own motivations, so we can discuss them openly.
That starts with thinking about your own childhood, the impact your relationships with your caregivers and siblings had on you, and your hopes and dreams for your children’s childhoods.
As Philippa Perry says,
“If we don’t look back at how we were brought up and the legacy of that, it can come back to bite us.”
Have you thought much about the habits and rituals from your childhood that you want to continue or leave behind?
How about the hopes and dreams those habits and rituals represent?
And what about what it’s been like for you to incorporate things from your partner’s background?
These are great things to talk about with your partner, to support you in consciously creating a family culture that aligns with your values.
If you’re not sure what your values are, or you struggle to communicate on this level, check out Love Happy Live Free.
The Changing Role of a Parent
Do you remember the first time someone called you “Mum” or “Dad”? (Were you like, “who?!”)
I remember the first time it happened to me. A midwife referred to me as “Mum” and I felt proud and excited, but also a bit overwhelmed.
I had so many associations to the word, and they weren’t all things I felt enthusiastic about.
Over time I’ve settled into the role.
But each new phase seems to bring a new round of reflections on what it means to be a parent and how we want to do it.
What does it mean to be a working mum?
A mum without a buggy?
A dad whose kids are in school?
A parent of teenagers?
It’s an ever-evolving role.
Questions For Parents
Here are a few questions to help you to reflect on the kind of parent you want to be, and the childhood you want for your kids.
If you haven’t talked about this stuff with your partner lately, I hope they help you to open up that conversation.
- What were your parents/carers like when you were a child?
- How would you like to be like each of the people who brought you up, and how would you like to be different?
- What other parental role models have you had, and how about them?
- What is your greatest challenge as a parent?
- And what would make you feel like you’d been a good parent?
Becoming Aware Of Our Assumptions
We all go into committed relationships with a number of assumptions, many of them unspoken, or even unconscious.
When we have babies we’re often faced with some of those assumptions for the first time.
This is one reason why becoming parents can be difficult for couples – because our ideas don’t always align.
For example, you might never have thought about who would eat when, because you just assumed you would eat as a family like you did growing up.
But if kids and adults mostly ate separately in your partner’s house, they might assume that you’ll eat as a couple once the kids are in bed.
This might sound on the surface like a minor issue, but it could actually have a much deeper meaning about your values, and your dreams for your family.
That’s why we tend to fall out over relatively minor things – because of their deeper meaning.
Just like we all grow up with ideas about what it means to be a mum or a dad, we all have models for being a wife, husband, or partner too.
And in the same way, sometimes we’re not even aware of the assumptions that we’re making about how things will be in our relationships until they get challenged.
Did you go into marriage or commitment with a lot of thought and intention, or did things sort of just happen?
Questions For Partners
Here are a few questions to help you reflect on how your childhood experiences impacted how you are as a partner (and more).
You could use these questions as journaling prompts, or to discuss with your partner or someone else you trust, or just to reflect on your own.
I hope you find them helpful.
- What do you remember from childhood about your parents’/carers’ relationship(s)?
- How do you want your relationship to be like those, and how do you want it to be different?
- What other relationship role models have you had, and how about them?
- What is your greatest challenge as a partner?
- And what would make you feel like you had a great relationship?
I would love to hear what these questions bring up for you. You can click here to get in touch, and click here to join my mailing list for regular updates on how to have a great relationship after kids.
You can also get instant access to the Contented Relationship Challenge here, and join the waiting list for Love Happy Live Free here.