What Your Kids Learn from Your Relationship
"Children do as they see, not as they are told." While it is true that a child is influenced by the relationship he has with each parent on an individual basis, he also notices and draws conclusions about the relationship between his parents. In fact, that relationship becomes the blueprint for all his future intimate relationships. Here are some things to consider when modeling a relationship you’d want your children to someday have:
Little eyes are always watching! Children are keen observers of their parents' marriage/relationship. Whether or not you are aware of it, your children are noticing the large and the small details of your relationship – including the "private" exchanges their parents assume are beyond their comprehension such as a small gesture of comfort or a hostile glance.
While your children may not be talking to you about what they are learning, they are drawing conclusions about "what happens" to people who are married. These conclusions will become a permanent part of their beliefs and expectations, and will prepare them to form their own marital relationships when they are older.
Children understand conflict better than we think. Children turn to their parents in order to make sense of the world. They are also highly sensitive and reactive to the emotional climate around them, and are very attuned to conflicts and tensions that do not even directly involve them. In order to avoid being punished or creating a problem, children try to figure out the rules - and then just how far they can bend them.
Children do not need to learn everything from firsthand experience. They learn just as much from watching what happens to other people and then applying the "rules" to themselves. They pay attention to when and how you disagree, notice how you and your partner react to each other, and in countless ways form impressions about the rules of relationships.
Children also tune in to the emotional climate and the sense of well-being between family members. Children watch how you and your partner interact and handle situations together. They then draw conclusions about how married people treat each other, for better or for worse.
Want to learn more? Check out the book What Children Learn from Their Parents' Marriage.