Relationship Workshop: Picture your Child
Over the years in running groups for co-parents in high-conflict relationships, we began to ask co-parents to bring photos of their children to share with each other. When they showed up at the next meeting with photos or images of their kids on their smart phone, we asked them to pass the photos or the smart phone around while telling us about their children.
This always resulted in parents talking proudly of their kids, telling about how they’re doing in school, their personalities, and their success in extracurricular activities. Parents always have a special beam on their faces when they’re talking about their kids. And it gets even brighter when other parents toss out compliments about how precious and special their children are. For most of us, it’s our children that make life so exciting and meaningful.
After everyone is given the opportunity to share photos and stories about their children, we tell them to remember that that’s why they are in the group: to make life better for their children. Sure, they need to resolve conflicts with their co-parent. And, yes, they need to be able to exchange information, communicate about the next soccer practice or dance recital, and talk about the medication that’s been prescribed for their child. But, more than anything, it’s about being civil to one another so their child grows up in an atmosphere that says, “We love you enough to get along with each other even though we can’t live with each other.”
When you are having difficulty controlling your anger or finding common ground with your co-parent, keep one picture in mind: the face of your child.
And think about what you can pass on to your child:
1. That you can be a model for how your child learns to handle frustrations and anger.
2. That you can teach her how to get along with other people, especially in intimate relationships.
3. That you will teach him to deal with his anger in appropriate ways that lead to solutions to problems and conflicts – not to making things worse.
4. That you can constantly help your child to feel loved and secure because you are putting her happiness and well-being above your own feelings about your co-parent.
5. That you can communicate effectively about her even if it isn’t quite so easy and simple.
In addition to looking at your child’s picture to remind yourself of these things, try an exercise. Close your eyes and visualize you child grown up to, say, age 25. What kind of person has he or she become? What kinds of personality traits and characteristics do they have? And, most importantly, think about how you have contributed to the positive characteristics and traits.
If you want to be a positive role model for your child, you must always remember to act as you would have them act in their own life. And it’s well to keep in mind also what the writer Robert Fulghum said: “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”
Picture your child often and you will remember to be a positive role model for them.