SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 14, 2014

Dr. Kate's Parent Rap: Parents need to celebrate Valentine's Day, too

Dr. Kate's Parent Rap
Dr. Kate Roberts

---- — Valentine’s Day is celebrated by couples across the country as a way to acknowledge their love for each other. It’s a time when couples decide to set aside other priorities and focus on their relationship. Parents are especially vulnerable to losing sight of romance and their love for each other when they are in the midst of raising kids and making family life their focus, often at the expense of couple time. Studies on marriage and happiness indicate that parenting couples who have at least one date night a week are significantly happier than those who do not.

Let’s face it, what parenting couple doesn’t need a healthy reminder that their love for each other should be celebrated? Well, Valentine’s Day has come to the rescue!

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity and excuse for parents to rekindle and express their romantic love for each other in a way that may be hidden or lost in their parenting lives.

Here is some advice for how parents can have the best Valentine’s Day ever and make the romance last:

Use Valentine’s Day as way to jump-start the missing romantic aspects of your partnership.

For couples that are having difficulties, Valentine’s Day is a great time to reconnect. Think of three things that made you fall in love with your partner and highlight them in a card or gift on Valentine’s Day.

Make a commitment moving forward to have more frequent romantic dates that go above and beyond the once-a-year Valentine’s Day.

Parents need to recognize that the best gift they can ever give their children is the modeling of a healthy, romantic, loving relationship. The best way for kids to learn how to develop their own healthy relationship is to grow up with parents who model this behavior. Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for the couple aspect of parents to shine!

Parents should consider giving gifts to each other that suggest personal sacrifice. So, while fun, romantic gifts of perfume and jewelry are important, include an aspect of personal sacrifice in your gift for your partner. For example, take away a chore that your partner hates doing as a symbol of your love for him or her. This is good way to show kids that being in love is about more than just buying gifts for each other.

If you know your partner is upset about how you take care of yourself, make a commitment to change. For example, commit to take better care of yourself in the service of improving the relationship.

Valentine’s Day can also be a time to do a couples inventory. Talk together about what works for you as a parenting couple and romantic couple and what doesn’t work and together commit to making one or two changes that would improve things for both of you and the family.

Ready or not, here comes the next school vacation

Here are some quick reminders to help you have a great week off with the kids.

Kids like structure and routine so develop a daily plan to ease anxiety. For example: Chores, individual time, play dates, family activities, and limited tech time at mid-end of day before dinner.

Discuss the entire week as a family and what can be expected during each day. Ask for the kids’ input. Over-talk it if you have to. Kids adjust better to being out of a routine when they know what to expect. Outline each day, plan for it the night before and review it again in the morning.

During the week, plan one or two special activities that children have input into such as, skating, movies, bowling, sledding, etc.

If you have to work, make the time you are at home “special family time.” Participate in making meals together, playing family games, having friends over, doing movie nights, etc.

Keep expectations low, and enjoy the limited time you have. Pick one or two favorite board games (all kids can be engaged in board games once you initiate and get it going). Plan some games in advance that you can pull out at times when things aren’t going as well as you hoped. I like Sleeping Queens and other card games or chess, checkers and Monopoly. They don’t have to be fancy games to entertain kids. A deck of cards and an interested parent are all that are required. The most important thing is that you be engaged and present during these family times.

Dr. Kate Roberts is a psychologist and parent coach on the North Shore. For more, visit www.drkateroberts.com, www.twitter.com/DrKateParenting, www.facebook.com/Dr.KateRobertsParenting or www.pinterest.com/DrKateParenting.