I love the quote by Annie Dillard, “How we live our days is how we live our lives,” This speaks to the effect we, as parents, have on our children in regards to their view of relationships. Our children watch us and do everything from emulate to rebel against what they see.
So, what do we show our children about love and relationship? This can be a scary question if our own partnership is full of conflict and injustice. It can be much easier to reflect upon if we see ourselves as models of supportive and sweet connection. How we live in our partnerships teaches our children what to expect for themselves. Whether we like it or not our kids are watching.
If we have children but aren’t currently partnered we are still teaching by example. If we are bitter or fearful about romance, our children read that. If we are single and parenting at the same time our children have a chance to observe how we explore and choose partners.
I came across a lovely article, How Dating Can Help Your Daughters, by dating coach Bobbie Palmer. She does a wonderful job speaking to the idea that single mothers can be awesome models of relationship by how they date. Ms. Palmer offers a list of possible lessons daughters can learn by observing their mother’s dating. She says daughters can learn about:
- Maintaining her self esteem in knowing that she is not defined by whether a boy or man likes her.
- Making choices based on thoughtful consideration and what’s good for her – rather than going on pure emotion.
- Pausing when necessary to ensure good outcomes.
- Setting clear boundaries in advance, and then adhering to them.
- Honoring and respecting herself, as well as the people she meets and spends time with.
- Maintaining awareness for her safety; both physical and emotional.
- Trusting her instincts.
- Seeking support when she needs it.
Conscious living requires that we see the effect we have on others, especially those close to us. Keeping our relationships healthy is one way we can teach our sons and daughters how to create and maintain positive connections in their own lives. Standing up for ourselves, fighting fair, approaching conflict skillfully, are all ways to show our kids how to struggle fairly with the challenges in relationship. If we, in our partnerships, show open affection, appreciation, kindness, and continued dating, we demonstrate ways to keep relationships enhanced and vital.
To change Annie Dillard’s quote to reflect partnership, we might say, “How we do our partnerships, is how we teach our children about love.”