Samantha Chen started dating her husband at 19. Then energetic college students, the couple bonded over their love for biking, often taking trips to Malaysia with like-minded friends. On weekends, the couple indulged their love for food and photography.
“Every day was like Valentine’s Day,” Chen quips.
But the rosy relationship underwent a drastic change when their first child, Koby, arrived five years into their marriage. Chen spent vast amounts of time caring for her son — from feeding to taking him for his medical appointments. To make matters worse, her husband had to travel frequently for work. So, there were even periods when she would not see him for days at a time.
Chen’s situation is not unique. Many new parents are so swamped by their children’s needs that they find themselves neglecting each other. However, Elvira Tan, a marriage specialist with Focus on the Family Singapore, warns against making this common mistake.
“A strong marriage just makes parenting that much easier.”
Tan notes that most couples focus all their time on parenting duties when they should be spending more time with each other. She adds, “A strong marriage just makes parenting that much easier. A married couple who spends time with each other and meets each other’s needs will stay emotionally connected to each other. It’s less daunting to face parenting challenges together as a couple.”
Conflict may increase when there’s a lack of communication between a couple. According to a 2009 study by the California Center for Population Research at the University of California-Los Angeles, adolescents with parents who clash show poorer academic results and increased substance use. Needless to say, these children also admit to feelings of insecurity and emotional instability.
When you set aside time to spend with your spouse, you not only strengthen your marriage, you are role models for your children, since you’ll be helping them understand what a healthy relationship looks like.
Tan points out, “Parents who behave as if the world revolves around their children are doing them a great disservice. When they grow older, these children will be in for a rude shock as they realise not everything is about them.”
Tips on how to balance time with your spouse and your children
• Schedule time with your spouse
Safeguard the couple time you should organise on a regular basis. Plan ahead and make arrangements with relatives, friends or neighbours to help you watch over the children.
• Schedule one-on-one time with each child
This could be a short 10-minute daily ritual of tucking junior into bed or organising a fortnightly outing with him to a place of his choice, so that he’ll get to do things he enjoys.
“Parents who behave as if the world revolves around their children are doing them a great disservice.”
• Be discerning when selecting activities to do with your children
Ensure that your activities with them will benefit them, rather than spending too much time on nice-to-have activities.
• Empower your children to be independent
Resist the urge to swoop in and do everything for them, which will wear you out. Letting them do things on their own gives you more time and energy for your spouse. Allowing your kids to help themselves as best they can may mean lowering your expectations of how things should be done. But as long as the job gets done, you should learn to be content with the results.
Ways to enhance your relationship with your pre-teen
- Take an interest in their topics
Showing interest in topics that capture your children’s attention lets you connect with them, as well as gives you common things to laugh and talk about. You’ll also better be able to advise them on topical issues arising from what’s currently in the media — which is more effective than mere nagging.
- Don’t be afraid to start conversations on sensitive subjects
Children can start experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sex from as early as 9 or 10 years old. This is because kids start to undergo puberty at this age, which may trigger sexual curiosity in boys and lead to weight and body-image issues among girls.
- Don’t over-react, but don’t be clueless either
Kids run into all types of situations — social, academic and otherwise — at this age. Don’t amplify the drama. Instead, put things into perspective. For example, if junior is upset that she wasn’t invited to a party, show her that this isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things and reinforce the idea.
- Don’t feel rejected by their newfound independence
Don’t take your tweens’ withdrawal as a rejection of you. At this age, kids start relying more on their friends and, sometimes, their friends’ validation may be more important than yours.
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