Will baby number two be hard on my marriage?
It is tough to stay connected with your partner once you start to have children. Instead of having the luxury of devoting time to one another whenever the mood strikes, you have other people—tiny people—competing for your attention. And they have powerful strategies for ensuring that their wants and needs become top priority at any given time—like screaming and crying.
The good news is that you’ve already been down this path before as a couple. This time around, you’ll be more prepared for the realities of parenting a newborn and the toll that sleep deprivation can take on everything from your mood to your energy level to your libido.
Don’t assume, however, that because you’re old pros that you can handle this round on your own. Accept any and all offers of help. If friends and relatives want to come over and help you catch up on laundry, or they offer to drop off a few meals for you, that’s less time you have to spend on those chores and more time you can spend enjoying your kids and connecting with one another.
Think about what worked the first time—what you learned through the School of Hard Knocks—and apply that wisdom to your life this time around, too.
Be extra kind to your partner. You’re both struggling with sleep deprivation, increased responsibilities, and cascading emotions. One or both of you might even be battling something more serious than the blues: up to 3% of new fathers experience depression after their babies are born, with fathers whose partners are experiencing postpartum depression being at particular risk of experiencing problems with depression themselves.
Stay connected. Find little ways to stay connected as a couple during the postpartum period (a time when everything can seem strange, new, and unsettled) and as you begin to establish new routines as a couple with another child. Hold hands when you can, even if it’s only for 15 seconds. Text your partner a love note when inspiration strikes. Keep the spark alive, even if you haven’t had sex in weeks.
Share your hopes and dreams. If you have a strong vision of what you are working toward together (a strong family with happy, healthy kids and loving parents), you’ll find it easier to get through the long days and even longer nights of early parenthood. When you’re singing to the baby and your partner is reading to the toddler, you’ll feel a powerful connection to your partner, knowing that you’re both on the same page: that you both want the same happy tomorrows for your kids and for one another.
Stick with it and you’ll find those short moments can grow into longer, memorable ones.
If someone reports your child has been bullying, here is what to do.
- Be open minded. Let the reporting party know you don’t tolerate bullying and that if your child has been the cause of any bullying, you will take swift action. Have him please tell you what he has seen or heard so that together you can correctly identify if it was indeed bullying versus an act of aggression or teasing.
Bullying is defined by four cardinal trademarks:
- imbalance of power;
- intent to hurt or harm;
- repeated negative behaviour with threats of further harm;
- victim feels terror.
- Do NOT punish your child. Re-read the four cardinal trademarks of bullying (above). When we punish our children, we are modeling bullying to them.
- Take firm and friendly disciplinary action. Sit down with your child and share what you have learned about the bullying episode. Listen calmly to your child as he will no doubt try to negate the situation, put the blame on others, or minimize what he has done. Expect him to justify and rationalize his actions. Your job is to ultimately get him to understand the gravity of his actions, while keeping his dignity intact. Be sure to reinforce the idea that regardless of any excuses, he ultimately chooses his behaviour and he made a choice that was devastating to the other child. Now he needs to set that right. Reassure him he is not a bad person, but a person who acted badly and that this mistake must be fixed. Let him know you’ll help and remind him that you love him.
Work co-operatively with the children to help them come up with a way to correct the wrongs and heal the hurts. This may take some time and be inconvenient to parents and children alike, but restorative justice is important, and human healing requires time.
- If your child broke property, he needs to replace it.
- Restore a sense of trust and safety to the other child. If the other child is afraid of being near him, your child needs to stay away from certain areas. (i.e. Your child has to find a new place to eat his lunch at school or he is no longer permitted to ride the same bus and you now have to drive him.)
- If he wants to write a letter or apologize in person, lovely. But don’t force an apology that will be disingenuous and further hurtful to the other child.
- Improve your child’s ‘social interest’ . The bullying incident was a wakeup call that your child needs to develop a better sense of awareness of others and community, something known as ‘social interest’. He needs to be challenged to see life as something you give to, not get from. Help him seek opportunities for ‘do-gooding’ to others in his family, school and community. This will also help him see life from another person’s perspective and feel more embedded socially. Improved social caring will follow.
You may have decided to end your marriage, but with a young family, you still face years of co-parenting with your ex. There are ways of having a good divorce and raising happy children with minimal emotional upset. Here are some best practices to set you on the right path:
- Let the kids come first. You may disagree on a lot, but at least try to agree that the children come first and the adults’ emotional baggage and private agendas come second.
- Use collaborative law. Utilize the new collaborative law and mediation processes. Your separation will be more amicable. The legal bills really hurt the economic backbone of a family and your children will ultimately pay the price.
- Get counseling. Even the best, conflict-free divorces benefit from having a professional help family members transition out of the nuclear family and into their new arrangements. Grieving the life you had and working to create a new vision of the future will help everyone land more gently.
- Act happy (even if you have to fake it). The most stressful problem for children is seeing their parents in conflict and feeling split loyalties. Kids love both their moms and dads, so if they see divisiveness, they don’t know where to place their affections. If they love Mom, it’s an act of going against Dad and vice versa. This is the hardest emotional bind for a child. Instead, show your children you both get along (or at least don’t hate one another). That means no bad-mouthing the other parent, no dirty looks, or asking the child to deliver snarky messages or spy on the other.
- Agree to disagree. I promise you, it’s the actual fighting and conflict about minutiae (like how to handle homework, discipline differences, bedtimes, what the kids eat etc.) that hurts kids, not the staying up late, watching Call of Duty, and skipping assignments. Let the other parent do things their own way and support the idea that kids can handle two houses having two different styles and rules.
- Decide what’s worth fighting for. If you agree you should not ‘sweat the small stuff’, but you wonder what is ‘small’, let me share what courts agree you should speak up about:
- Safety – Abuse or neglect
- Travel – Extensively being away, distant, remote or unreachable
- Health – Refusing chemotherapy, blood transfusions, vaccinations, etc.
- Education – Sending them away to boarding school/military school or other non-main stream settings
- Religion – Excessive pressure or conversion to a known religious cult or extremist group
Are you getting a sense of the scale now? So, fighting about trans fats in fast food isn’t the way to go. You’ll probably do more psychological damage to your toddler watching you bicker over it.