Updated: Aug 10, 2022
Note: If you haven’t read Part 1 - Putting Yourself First - we highly encourage you to stop and read that post first.
As I mentioned in Part 1 - when I was seeing a behavioral psychologist for our children’s ADHD he advised that children’s needs do not always and should not always come first in the hierarchy of our lives. This is controversial, as we’ve all become accustomed to the phrase - ‘Our children come first’. But this wasn’t always the focus - Shout out to my fellow 1980s and 1990s Latch-Key Kids.
In this series we’re using the analogy of a Life Jacket - what you need to stay afloat in this bright messy spinning orb called Earth. And Part 2 of this series is talking about the second belt in your life jacket - your significant other, your life partner, your child’s other parent.
Becoming a parent can be exhilarating, beautiful, and life affirming… but it can also be
messy, exhausting, and at times depressing. One day it can be amazing and the next day it can be awful. What it never has to be is full of isolation and resentment. If two people came together to become parents, by any means - biological, adoption, foster, etc - those two people owe it to each other to try to stand together and be there for each other in both the amazing and the awful times alike. Support each other, advocate for each other, catch each other, cheer for each other and love each other.
How do you do that? Prioritize each other. This doesn’t mean you always prioritize your significant other over your children, it means you don’t always prioritize your children over your significant other. It means you strike a healthy balance. It means you work hard to form a strong, connected Family P.A.C.K.
Balanced prioritization requires strong planning and communication. It means checking in with each other and openly communicating if needs are being met. It means really knowing one another - your love languages, strengths, communications styles and what joy means to each one of you; and honoring the pursuit of that joy, in tandem with all the other messy, exhausting, exhilarating, beautiful things going on in our lives. And let's be honest - this is especially true with children who have ADHD. You both need to utilize your Super Parenting Skills and this can leave you both too drained for anything else. This is when it's the most important to sit together and find ways to work together, find those pockets of connection, and opportunities to fall back and more in love.
Some easy ways to begin prioritizing your significant other:
Learn and openly communicate about your love languages
It's possible you never really knew your significant other's love languages, but before there were children and it was just you two - it may have been easier to fulfill each other’s needs just by virtue of having the time. Now that time may not be as available - the priority of love languages may need to be more targeted.
Dedicated “US” time
In Part 1 we discussed prioritizing YOU time, but it’s just as important to prioritize US time. This way you avoid the “roommate syndrome” - where you and your significant other essentially become roommates who share logistical responsibilities
Simple ways to do this:
Dedicate a set number of hours every day after the kids go to bed. I know a wonderful couple who established a rule long ago that after 8pm was Parent Only time. When the kids were little, they were asleep by 8pm, as they got older, the kids just had to be in their rooms for their own quiet time by 8pm. This couple would then spend a few hours of quality time together every night - even if it was just reading in bed together.
Note: This may be difficult every night - but even establishing this a few nights a week is a huge benefit and they should be clearly scheduled before the week begins.
We couldn’t write this blog and not include date night. I know some couples where date night has become a distant memory - an almost impossible to fathom activity. But it doesn’t have to be a big, expensive affair.
If funds are tight - exchange babysitting date nights with another couple and go for a picnic, walk, matinee, etc.
If your family comes into town - ask them for a few hours to yourselves (every time my parents come into town - we’re outta here!)
Leverage a local gym’s Parent’s Night Out
Don’t judge this straight away. I know one couple who purchased Romance Cards online and each takes one card a week and follows it. They’ve been doing it for years and it has worked wonders for them - especially if one person isn’t as romantic and needs guidance.
Create your own! I did this with my significant other and it was really fun. We each wrote romantic things our significant other could do and we’d alternate weeks. For example: one of mine was for him to write little love notes and put them all over the house so I would find them throughout the day (literally just post-it notes) and one of his was for me to actually sit and watch sports with him and enjoy it.
Prioritizing each other is healthy for your children. Why? We’re trying to raise healthy adults, so the best way to do that is to model healthy, loving adult behavior. Always prioritizing your children creates an unhealthy perception of their place in this world. My belief is that one of the keys to happiness is to have and nurture healthy relationships - first with yourself, with your partner, with your friends, family and community. By showing your children how to accomplish that you give them one of the greatest gifts you can possibly give them.
Psychologist Yvonne Thomas stated, "Kids can literally see what it's like to be in a loving relationship in which there is a true partnership, respect, and joy from being a couple. By experiencing this emotional stability between their parents, the kids can learn how to do this when they have their own romantic relationships, too." *
Also - everything we’re striving for here at Whole Family ADHD is connection and harmony in the home - especially with kids (and parents) who have ADHD. When the two heads of the household are connected, loving, and supportive of each other, that shifts the whole energy of the home and creates safe spaces for your children to explore, learn and grow.
“This can make the kids feel more comfortable and happy too, since the quality of their parents' relationship—and thus the quality of their home life—can be genuinely positive," Thomas says.
What should you do if your needs are still not getting met?
Find a licensed professional. We advocate strongly for marriage counselors and marriage coaches. (Note: We do not offer that specific service at Whole Family ADHD at this time.) It may take a few before you find one that works for you and your significant other together, but the right professional can make a world of difference. And lastly, if that doesn't work, there are many wonderful ways to co-parent separately and still provide safe, loving, connected spaces for your children.
What if you're a single parent?
Again, see Part 1 - Putting Yourself First. Being a single parent is hard. Being a single parent of child who has ADHD is very hard. This is where you need to lean on your other straps in your life jacket - your support network; your family, your friends and your community. (These will all be future blog posts.) Also, take this time to really get to know your true authentic self - your love languages, your character strengths, your personality type. And if you desire a new relationship, we advise that you take the time to visualize what a healthy, loving, mutually respectful and fun relationship would feel like, how that might take shape in your life. This is your opportunity to find the person best aligned for you, for your children; a person who will join you in creating a home with connection and harmony; a person who will commit to doing the work with you and making sure you're both a priority in each other's lives.
If you read this and thought - YES - this is amazing - Great! Reach out and let us show you more ways to continue to get to know and prioritize your parenting partner!
If you read this and thought - No way - we’re way too stressed to do this right now - Reach out and let us show you how to begin finding those elusive pockets of time and how to use them.