image of a slightly shadowed couple lovingly holding hands to conceptualize what our relationship teaches our kids

We talk often about how being in a healthy relationship helps us connect and grow as adults. Equally important is what our relationship teaches our kids. How we show up for ourselves and our partner will set the groundwork for how our kids show up for themselves and their partner when they enter into relationships as adults.

If you are in a relationship, and you have kids of any age, this article is for you. Let’s take a look at 8 healthy ways our relationship teaches our kids.

1. Our Relationship Teaches Our Kids About Healthy Disagreement

Disagreement with others is unavoidable in life, and our introduction to navigating disagreement is made by our role model(s) in early childhood. How do you navigate disagreement in your relationship? Do you use respectful language? Keep the volume at a fair level? Avoid attacking another’s character? Do you pause when you feel yourself getting heated? Do you ask for the same in return?

When we’re in it, we’re focused on the disagreement and the swarm of emotions that often come with it. But if we’re able to reflect, we can usually find a pattern in our approach to disagreement. And these patterns will in turn teach our kids their first lessons in navigating a dispute. We won’t be perfect, but we can show them that disagreement can end, respectfully, and can actually act as a vehicle for growth and change.

2. Our Relationship Teaches Our Kids About Fair Reconciliation

If disagreement is unavoidable, it makes sense that the following lesson would be fair reconciliation. After a disagreement in your relationship, how do you reconcile? Are you solution-oriented? Do you avoid using today’s argument as ammunition in a future argument? Is there a fair compromise on a solution? Are there honest apologies where needed?

When our kids watch us repair a relationship through fair reconciliation, they learn that people can work together against an issue, instead of each other. They also learn humility, sensitivity, conflict resolution, and, possibly the most important lesson here – they learn that they and others are worthy and valuable, despite the disagreements that arise.

3. A Healthy Relationship Teaches Our Kids About Boundaries

Boundaries – Having healthy boundaries is tricky for a lot of us (must have been tricky for our role models, too!), but they can be easier to learn when we see them modeled. The same is true for our kids. What are we teaching about boundaries? Do we model assertion of boundaries for ourselves? Do we show respect for our partner’s boundaries? Do we respect the boundaries of the relationship? Do we model that it’s ok to need new boundaries and model permission to create them?

4. They Learn about Maintaining Autonomy in a Relationship

Autonomy – Autonomy and boundaries go hand in hand, as we often need boundaries to maintain autonomy. Yet, autonomy, in itself, is important to a healthy relationship and warrants its own discussion. How are we modeling autonomy? Do we have space within the relationship to make decisions? Do we choose our own hobbies, our personal style, our place of work, our friends, and even how to spend our free time?

Of course, when we’re in a healthy relationship, there are instances where it might seem like we sidelined our autonomy – say, when we go to an event with our partner even though we’d rather not. Or maybe it’s bigger – maybe we turn down an out-of-state job because of the impact it would have on our relationship. In a healthy relationship, even when it seems we acquiesce to something, we’re doing it through autonomous choice. That is, we’re making way because we want to, not because we have to, and yes, there’s a big difference.

By teaching our kids that individual autonomy in a relationship is important, we teach them that it’s okay to be themselves in a relationship. We teach them that they are worthy and valuable just as they are. Just as importantly, we teach them that they have a voice and choice in the relationship, which is critical to relating in a healthy way.

5. We Teach Them About Healthy Communication

Communication – Healthy communication is inseparable from a healthy relationship, and not just when things get tough. What are we doing to model healthy communication? Do we voice our preferences and needs? Are we honest about what we like and don’t like? Do we communicate in a way that empowers connection? Do we provide a safe space for our partner to speak up? Do we practice active listening?

How we communicate can be the crux of a healthy relationship, and when our kids see us practice empathetic, authentic communication, it teaches them that their voices matter. It teaches them that our words and language impact others and the relationship. It teaches them that others are also worthy of safe spaces and focused listening. Most importantly, it teaches them that healthy communication is safe.

6. They Learn to Give and Receive Affection in Healthy Ways

Affection – Affection looks differently from relationship to relationship, and that’s normal, healthy, and fine! It’s not just about expressing and receiving affection – especially if both partners have different needs when it comes to the matter. How do we model meeting different needs? How do we model respect for another’s boundaries, while staying true to ourselves? How much effort do we put into creatively showing our affection for another? Does the affection wax and wane in the relationship, as it does in many healthy unions? How do we handle that? How do we address affection outside the relationship, and how does that impact our partnership?

When we model healthy affection, whatever that may look like, we model different ways to give and receive affection. We show them that it’s up to the partners to decide how affection is expressed in their relationship. We teach them that different people have different needs for affection, and that this is okay, and it’s okay to talk about and work through those differences.

7. They Learn about Meeting Their Needs, As Well As Their Partner’s

Meeting needs – If we’re honest, sometimes partners in a relationship can have differing needs. What lessons are we teaching about how to get our own needs met in a way that allows our partner to also have their needs met? Are we aware of our needs? Are we sensitive to the needs of our partner? How do we handle conflicting needs?

When we model healthy ways of handling needs in a relationship, we teach our children that their needs matter. Likewise, while we teach them that their needs matter, we also teach them that the needs of others matter, too. When we model healthy ways of meeting needs, they see that getting everyone’s needs met is a delicate dance between people, that all needs are important, and that no single person is responsible for all the needs.

8. They Learn What it Looks Like to Prioritize Important Relationships

Prioritization of important relationships – Undoubtedly, one of the greatest things about being in a relationship is the sense of belonging somewhere, and the sense that we matter and are important to our partner. And, to be honest, it feels pretty great to have a special someone to love and dote on as our number one. 

When we prioritize our partner in healthy ways, we model what it looks like to create a relationship that fosters a sense of belonging for both partners. We model safe and healthy ways to put our most important people first, without ignoring ourselves. Most importantly, we show our kids that they are worthy of feeling important in a relationship, too. 

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive. The lessons we teach our kids about relationships, by being a mindful model, can last them the rest of their lives. Just by showing up in healthy ways for ourselves, our partner, and the relationship, we show up for our kids, too. And that is a beautiful thing.

If there’s anything in this list that stood out to you as a point to work on, a relationship coach could be a great fit. Please don’t hesitate to reach out – we can help!