Over the years, Valentine’s Day has evolved beyond the holiday’s romantic origins. The love we have for our kids, gal pals and even dogs is now part of the rosy, heart-shaped day.
And while it’s a sweet idea to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family event — and there are many adorable ways to do so — it’s also important to carve out some grown-up time on this special day.
In fact, according to pediatrician and parenting coach Dr. Molly O’Shea, making a point to do so will not only strengthen your partnership but also model healthy relationships for your kids, something they’ll benefit from for the rest of their lives.
Here’s why you should leave the kids out of your grown-up Valentine’s Day plans this year, along with more information on how doing so can help improve your romantic life.
Your relationship will live beyond their childhood
Before your kids were ever in the picture, it was just the two of you — as it will be again once they’ve moved out to pursue their own lives.
“Long after your kids have flown the coop, you and your partner will be living together,” says Dr. O’Shea. “Growing together throughout your whole life is important!”
To avoid sharing an empty nest with a total stranger, continue to nourish your relationship by taking the time for romance. Schedule simple dates like quiet dinners, movie nights or leisurely walks — without any distractions.
Romance can provide stress relief
Being a parent is a 24/7/365 job — and it’s one you likely perform on top of many other roles, such as employee, homemaker, partner and more.
Hitting pause to pursue something fun and relaxing can be the reset you desperately need.
“Raising kids is tough sometimes,” says Dr. O’Shea. “Getting out together alone (or with friends) reminds you that you are more than a parent — you are a complete human being with your own wants and needs. Fulfilling some of those is so gratifying!”
Scheduling something romantic can also give the two of you something to look forward to, which can provide a nice boost of serotonin whenever you’re feeling swamped.
Learn to feel sexy and in love again
There’s nothing quite as mood-killing as the stress and responsibility of being an adult, especially with little ones who depend on you.
But that’s all the more reason to make time for pleasure and relaxation — both for your relationship’s sake and your own.
“So often, the constant demands of children make romance less appealing. Everybody feels tired and used up by the time the idea of sex comes around,” says Dr. O’Shea. “Spending time alone reminds you that you can be independent adults and fall in love again.”
To ensure you actually devote time to intimacy and connection, put it on the calendar. Scheduling intimacy might seem unromantic, but doing so can allow you to prepare, get in the right headspace and make sure you’re totally present when the time comes to be alone.
Build confidence and independence
Making time for romance will require parents to arrange some kind of babysitter — a thought that could be intimidating for some.
But doing so can help both you and your kids develop confidence and independence. They’ll see you as more than just a parent, and you’ll reconnect with yourself outside of the “mom” or “dad” role.
“Sometimes parents have a hard time letting go. Leaving your kids with someone else can be daunting,” says Dr. O’Shea.
“Kids need to see that you are confident, that they can handle life for short periods without you … Parents who struggle with worries about their child’s safety can work through those fears with short dates at first (getting coffee) and working up to dinner and a movie.”
If it’s COVID-19 concerns that are holding you back from arranging a babysitter, medical experts recommend establishing a list of practices you expect the babysitter to follow when they’re in your home (look to CDC guidelines for best practices).
Model a healthy, loving relationship
Before your date, sit your kids down to inform them of your plans and explain why you and your partner will be having alone time.
Let them know that sometimes, parents need special time together — not because you don’t enjoy spending time with your kids but because you love each other very much.
“Children want to see their parents loving each other and connected,” says Dr. O’Shea.
“Even if children initially struggle briefly with their parents’ departure, the value they gain in seeing a solid, loving relationship between their parents outweighs it. Children adapt quickly and learn their parents come back, and [they’ll] forever gain the value of the feeling of confidence in their parents’ relationship.”
By nurturing your relationship, you’ll not only flourish as a couple but also as individuals — all while teaching your children an important lesson in love. And isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about?
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