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May 19, 2020 by Indiana Lee

One of the most important lessons you can pass on to your kids is the value of healthy, supportive relationships — and how to nurture them. Just because you’re divorced or separated doesn’t mean you’re a failure at relationships. You can still teach your kids how to relate in a loving and healthy way, so they can grow up to establish their own supportive and healthy relationships.

The simple act of treating others as you’d like to be treated or the way you and your kids treat each other can provide a powerful, lifelong example of what friendships and partnerships should look like. Here are some of the most important factors of a healthy relationship and how you can help your kids develop them.

Learning to Relate — Even in Difficult Circumstances

If you’re in the process of a separation or a divorce, you can teach your kids that even during a difficult time of change when two people don’t see eye to eye in a situation, they can still respectfully disagree and work together towards a greater goal (like co-parenting). Your situation may be far from that reality, but it’s important that your kids see that the adults they love and trust can act objectively and respectfully during difficult times.

There will be times in your child’s life when conflict arises. It could be at school, in the workplace, or even with strangers. Kids need a model of how to deal with combative people. A current divorce or separation may provide lessons.

Although there may be a lot of conflict between you and your soon to be ex-spouse, do not argue with them in front of your kids for your children’s mental health. Avoid making disparaging remarks to your kids about their other parent and try to remain calm and objective when discussing your ex. You may have different feelings about the situation behind closed doors, such as anger or frustration, but as long as they’re expressed privately and away from your kids, they are valid emotions to have.

Model good behavior for your kids by treating your ex with respect. Show them that you can calmly speak with another adult even when you disagree with them, and even if a conversation becomes heated, do your best to avoid being triggered or losing your temper around your children.

Communication Is Essential

All relationships, not just romantic relationships, rely on the pivotal value of communication. Teacher and student, coach and athlete, business colleagues, and romantic relationships all require good communication to be a success.

Communication involves more than saying your piece. Good communication is a two-way interaction that involves listening above all, understanding, and then responding. And one of the best ways you can teach your child the value of good communication is in how you communicate with your kids.

Make good communication a regular part of your day with your child. Have dinner together at the dining table at least a few days a week and discuss how your days went. Ask your kids thought-provoking questions when you’re driving around. Listen and respond accordingly.

When a child understands how good it feels to be heard and understood, as well as practice by reciprocating, they’re building skills that will come in handy in the future to effectively relate to each other, avoid misunderstandings, build trust, and deepen bonds.

Understanding the Languages of Love

Love in one form or another is a significant part of a relationship. It may be the love between family members, or the affection someone may feel for friends, or romantic love. Regardless of the type, not everyone expresses love or feels appreciated in the same way. It would be useful for parents to learn more about the languages of love. According to the NY Times best-selling book, The Five Love Languages, there are five ways people feel most loved and provide it. They are:

-Acts of service
-Giving and receiving gifts
-Affection
-Words of affirmation
-Quality time

Teaching your kids how others may communicate love differently can add empathy and depth to the way your child will relate to others in the future. Take the time to point out to your kids how a kind of act may fit one of the love languages.

For example, if your child tells you about their time at a birthday party with friends, you can point out the different ways his or her friends show their love for them. You can explain how Mary’s complement on your daughter’s braids may be her way of using words of affirmation to show her friendship. Or how Tim let her have his piece of the cake is an act of service.

Using Difficult Times to Provide the Biggest Lessons on Love

It’s often the hardest times that provide the biggest room for growth. A divorce, a time when a child is being bullied in school, or when there’s a conflict with other siblings, can help your child learn what a healthy relationship looks and doesn’t look like, and how they can act to navigate the situation.

Indiana Lee lives in the Northwest and has a passion for the environment and healthy lifestyles. She draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly with her two dogs. Indiana enjoys mountain bicycling and hiking on her off time and has experience in owning and operating her own business. Feel free to contact her at [email protected]m or follow her on twitter @indianalee3  

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