One of the greatest joys of my relationship with my husband is our children. The shared pride we have for our children brings us together. But it has also been a frequent source of disagreement for us over the past 15 years. (How could two pediatricians ever expect to agree on the many aspects of child-rearing?!)
To avoid becoming part of the sad statistic — 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce — my husband and I have had to work hard at staying together.
In my 15 years of pediatric practice, I’ve had many wonderful couples come to me with their new baby, and they were completely in love with each other and their child. Slowly, they drifted apart and, ultimately, divorced.
Pediatricians care about family dynamics so much because it impacts the emotional health of kids. Although every family and couple is unique in their strengths and challenges, a few common struggles in the couples that split have emerged:
- Spending very little time together as a couple. All the time and energy is devoted to kids, work and everything else in life, leaving little time for mom and dad.
- Poor communication. Not talking enough, or talking in a negative or opposing style.
- Disagreement over parenting issues, especially discipline.
- Choosing hobbies for kids that feel exclusive to one parent.
- Unequal participation in family activities.
So, what are some habits of healthy couples that we can all try to practice? A few suggestions:
- Date your mate. Go out without the kids, take short trips together, remember why you made a baby together.
- Talk often and gently. At our house, we go out for coffee and have a “parent summit” when we are trying to figure out how to deal with challenging parenting issues.
- Try to meet in the middle on disparate parenting ideas. If it’s something like whether or not to spank, where it’s a “yes” or “no” decision, each talk about the reasons for your opinions and seek outside counsel if you just cannot agree.
- Involve both parents in children’s extracurricular activities.
- Plan family activities that include both parents.
Ultimately, strong couples make strong families, which makes happy kids.