Everyone knows when couples struggle, it affects the kids just as much. It is hard enough for us as parents to manage the weight of not getting along with our partner, but to also carry how much it is affecting our children can feel overwhelming at times. We understand that when our children see parents fighting, it takes away their sense of security. Parents are a child’s main source of security, so to have that taken away is very distressing. Then, we also have to consider the type of behavior we are role modeling to our kids. What relationships look like, what is an acceptable way to treat a spouse or a spouse to treat them. Sometimes I think “if a girl ever treated one of my boys the way I treat my husband sometimes, I would become a horribly interfering mother in law.” And even though I know all of this, in the moment, when my husband has done something that pushes me over the edge, I am going to let him know in whatever “F_ _ _ing” way I feel is necessary to get my point across.
So, considering we are not always capable of being perfect partners or perfect parents and knowing it is affecting our kids in whatever big or small way, family therapy is a really, really great option to help our kids resolve some of these issues. The one thing I really want to say about family therapy, from my perspective as a family therapist, is that family therapy is for the kids. Couple’s therapy is for the parents, but family therapy is really about the kids. It’s about helping parents be there for their kids. In couple’s therapy I help individuals relieve the stress of a disconnected relationship by turning the relationship into a source of reassurance, support, safety, and comfort instead of a source of anxiety and heartache. In family therapy, I help parents attune to their children and hear and support their children in a way the children need. Children are affected by distressed marriages, so in my opinion both should be happening. If you need couples therapy and have kids in the house, chances are you need family therapy as well.
Having said that, I want to reassure you that as a family therapist I am not here to judge your parenting skills. The fact that you are willing to lay them all out on the table with a perfect stranger who has the authority to call CPS if I deem the children are unsafe, shows me the minute you walk in the door, you have the children’s best interest at heart. I know it can be scary thinking the kids are going to tell the therapist the kinds of things you say to your spouse or them for that matter, when you have lost it; or that you drink, or are always on your phone, or work 7 days a week, or don’t work at all, or that you spank your kids, or slam doors and throw things when your mad. Not only have we as therapist heard almost all of it in individual, couples, or family therapy, we have probably lived most of it as well. I want to reassure you that your kid’s mental and emotional wellbeing is well worth it. Family therapy is not about you not being a perfect parent, it really isn’t much about you at all, it is about helping your kids process and deal with things most families don’t know how to talk about. It is about making your kids feel heard, seen, cared for, safe, valuable, lovable, and worthy. I am not here to judge your parenting, only to help your kids know that you are ok and that they are ok.
Love Long Love Strong,
Robin Blair, LMFT
Certified EFT Therapist