QUESTION: I’ve been through many bad relationships and I’ve become very bitter towards men. I’m starting to realize that I’m passing that resentment on to my two daughters. I don’t want them to resent men because of the mistakes I made. How can I teach my kids about healthy relationships when I don’t even know what one is?
DR. CARABALLO’S ADVICE: I am glad you are deciding to pass on a neutral, healthy, and balanced viewpoint about men to your daughters independently from your experiences or whether you received one or not. That is a wonderful gift. Congratulations on making that decision!
You are the most important role model for your daughters. Children are like sponges. They absorb what they hear and see, and pick up messages from their parents, family, friends, society and the cultural norms they are raised in. Parents always pass to their children a legacy… good, bad, or some of both. Clearly you do not want to pass on a negative viewpoint that is based on your experiences. This suggests that you have a lot of courage but also that you are ready to let go of the pain and feel lighter.
To successfully teach your daughters about healthy relationships, you definitely should allow yourself to heal from your past experiences and release the resentment towards men. Forgive yourself for your previous decisions and allow yourself to believe in you and others. It will be beneficial if you can find ways to understand and have compassion to forgive men that display unacceptable behaviors. At the same time, you should identify the positive aspects about men in your life or others. As you go through this process, your viewpoint toward men will be more balanced, and this will have a positive impact on your daughters.
Children need to learn what to expect in a healthy relationship. In a healthy relationship both people feel respected, supported, and valued. Decisions are made together; disagreements are settled with open and honest communication and there are definitely more good times than bad times. Teach your daughters to accept differences in other people and explain how we do not have the power to change anyone except ourselves.
Karen Caraballo, Psy.D., ABSNP
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