By Guest Blogger, Jacqueline Holden, MA, NCC, PMH-C
The New Parent Checklist
When preparing to welcome a new baby, parents often make long lists of things to buy and classes to take.
Most prenatal checklists look the same:
-find a provider
-take a childbirth class
-schedule maternity pictures
-decorate the nursery
-write a birth plan
Preparing Your Relationship
Unfortunately, what’s missing from most lists is anything about preparing your relationship for what’s to come. In the first three years of parenthood, 67% of parents experience a significant drop in relationship satisfaction. If you’re parenting with a partner, making the effort to intentionally care for your relationship will benefit the whole family, even as your child grows.
The Pandemic Makes These Tools More Timely
In light of the additional challenges that parents face due to the global pandemic, I compiled a list of 10 ways that you and your partner can prioritize your relationship, whether you are trying to conceive, expecting a baby or are seasoned parents of an older child.
Your Relationship Interaction Positivity Ratio
The purpose of these interactions is to add positivity to your relationship “bucket”. Research by the Gottman Institute found that a ratio of 5:1 (positive to negative interactions) was necessary to maintain a healthy relationship. All healthy relationships experience negativity, conflict, and mistakes, but they overwhelmingly are made up of positive interactions. The goal is that when conflict and negativity pop up, they won’t completely empty your “bucket,”. Your relationship will be able to manage the repair with much more ease.
Here are the Steps:
1. Receive a Compliment
This can be tough! Your self confidence may have taken a hit during the pandemic. You may be left feeling less than wonderful about yourself, your work, your home life, and your abilities as a parent and partner. If your partner compliments you, resist the urge to voice all the reasons you can think of that nullify their statement. Verbalize your thanks, and add some extra positivity by including a hug or a kiss.
2. Give a Compliment
Just as much as it can brighten your day to receive a compliment, it feels even better to give one. Look for any moment to remind your partner of something they’re doing well. Notice where they’re working hard. Acknowledge the effort they’re putting in.
3. Find Time to Touch
Especially when everyone is at home together all the time, it can be very easy to fall into a daily routine that revolves around work, household responsibilities, and caring for your child. Take a moment in the morning to start your day with a hug or kiss. Take advantage of little moments during the day to sprinkle in more physical affection.
4. Ask Questions-Gottman Card App
Do you have the opportunity for some kid-free time? Break out the Gottman Card Deck App so you don’t fall into the trap of work or home-life chat. Choose from a variety of decks. The app is FREE!
5. Be Flexible
We’re all handling this pandemic differently. Many people’s roles have changed. This can potentially impact your sense of self. If you allow each other the freedom to not have it all figured out, and be vulnerable as partners, you can decrease tension and increase connection.
6. Send a Text/Leave a Note for Your Partner
Your note may be well-timed after a tough work call or frustrating parenting moment.
7. Take Something Off Your Partner’s Plate
Many couples have shifted their household responsibilities during this time. Be flexible. If you can, take on a task from the to-do list to lighten your partner’s load.
So many things we expected to do and celebrate this year have been cancelled or changed significantly. Take a trip down memory lane, or daydream with each other about how you’ll spend time together in the future.
9. Get Moving
Even when the weather changes, it’s so important to get out of the house and move our bodies. Taking a quick walk together, even if it’s around the block, can start to shake off a funk and release some tension.
10. Voice Appreciation
This is another one of those things that seems like a no-brainer, but often gets forgotten. If your partner takes out the stinky diapers, makes you a cup of coffee, reads an extra story so you don’t have to for the millionth time, TELL THEM you notice and appreciate their thoughtfulness. Amp it up by adding how it made you feel. No one is a mind reader. We can’t expect our partners to realize that their one seemingly small gesture made your day.
A Daily Practice
Each of these use the Gottman concept of “small things often,” and can be incorporated into your daily routine with little time and no money. At first, you might need to set a reminder or make a note to practice these activities. Be persistent. Like anything new that you’re working on, it may feel awkward at first. As time passes, and you and your partner intentionally add positive interactions to your days, it will become second nature!
About Jacqueline Holden
Jacqueline Holden is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern. She provides telehealth counseling services for individuals and couples in Oregon. She also teaches virtual classes on perinatal mental health and strengthening relationships between parenting partners. When she’s not chasing after her 4 year old, or helping her 12 year old with online school, she enjoys quiet car rides alone, listening to NPR, and wine tasting with her husband.