In our culture, we are conservative about public display of affection between couples. Even when married couples get affectionate with each other, people around start feeling awkward. Is it really bad for children to see their parents hold hands, put an arm around each other or hug in front of them? Wouldn't this actually help children feel secure and understand what a healthy marital relationship is like?
Research indicates that when parents show affection to one another, touch, hug, kiss or even cuddle in front of their children, the children get the message that their parents love and value each other. This helps create a nurturing family environment in which children feel safe and grounded. John Medina, in his book “Brain rules for Baby’, talks about how feeling safe and secure is the prerequisite for all round development of children - cognitive, behavioural control, emotional, health etc.
Culturally, it may be tough for us to digest the idea of showing affection to our spouse in public. But knowing that how we parents interact with each other has a huge impact to the child’s personality and learning outcomes, here are simple steps we could take in this direction:
Working on showing affection towards each other with ease by holding hands, gently placing our hand on our spouse’s shoulder or a hug.
Parents focussing on talking to each other with respect and empathy - using endearing words and speaking thoughtfully impresses upon children the importance of caring for each other.
Family hugs get families together and make them feel connected. These could be made a part of
Appreciating each other for big and small things makes the home a place of gratitude and mindful of each person’s contribution to the well being of the family.
In our workshop, a parent shared that her 9 year old shocked her by asking, ‘Ma... Don’t you and Papa love each other?’ When the mother asked why she thought so, her daughter said,” I see you both having arguments but never see you both talking about it. But when I fight with my friend, after some time we make up with a special handshake.” When we parents happen to have an argument in front of our children; it is healthy to make up and sort out differences in front of them as well. This helps children learn that people can have differences of opinions and yet love each other. It also helps them understand how to handle conflict.
Planning something with the children for the other parent’s birthday or doing special something for our spouse out of the blue. This teaches children about romance and how to make the other feel loved.
Most often, when we parents don’t express our love for each other in front of our children, they are left confused about how to function in their own relationship with their partners. Instead of viewing real life experiences, children tend to base their knowledge about relationships from watching movies, advertisements and television.
Children need to feel loved by each parent and also knowing that both parents love and value each other has a huge positive impact on them. Howard W. Hunter says, ‘The best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother.’ And vice versa!