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Becoming a Family: Nurturing your Connection in the Transition to Parenthood

Becoming a parent is one of the most profound transitions in life an individual will experience, and for a couple becoming parents together is an extraordinary and life-long journey that bonds them together. So why is it, then, that it is so common for parenthood to decrease relationship satisfaction?

Perhaps the toughest thing when our children cry are the emotions their tears trigger in us: empathic upset and sadness, plus a sense of helplessness that comes from thinking we need to do something while unsure what that would be.

Your daughter comes home in tears. She can barely choke out words to describe the mean things some girls said to her on the school bus. You listen to her story and try to comfort her. If you’re really skilled, you’ll offer her attunement (Are You Okay?

You’re fixing dinner when your partner comes home. Immediately you sense his tenseness. Your greeting receives a short, curt reply. He asks if you’ve brought in the mail, then quickly turns away. Do you hear the likely sound of a rough day, or maybe bad commute traffic, coloring his words and tone?

While kids everywhere play violent videogames, parents wonder about negative effects from all that shooting, maiming and killing. Some scientific research is worth our attention.

We say it often — “Are you okay?” — when we notice that our child’s mood seems “off,” or he’s experiencing an emotional setback, or she’s tripped on the pavement or fallen off her bike. We say it because we care; we’re concerned.

Many of us have it backwards. With our kids, we emphasize talking rather than listening. We believe that good parenting means explaining, reminding, correcting, admonishing, instructing — it's no wonder a lot more words come out of our mouths than theirs. In time, all our gab tends to turn them off. By adolescence, many tune us out.

Does my spouse really "get" me? Does he (or she) understand how I feel — at least some of the time?

Few things are more comforting than the experience of being understood by our primary partner.

A study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (May, 2010) recently reported that men and women who believed that their partners understood them had higher relationship satisfaction when compared to other couples.