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Marriage Counseling: Your Marriage in the Preschool Years
A New Phase: Parenting a Preschooler
You have heard so much about the challenges of having a newborn or infant. But, have you heard nearly as much about the difficulties of the preschool years? As the parent of a three year old, I understand that the preschooler phase is full of exciting developments… and stress (Related article: Marriage Counseling)! You have probably heard people talk about the “terrible twos” or “threenagers”. You hear parenting strategies for handling the classic toddler temper tantrums. But, how can you strengthen your marriage during this phase?
Luckily, marriage and family researchers have studied the typical phases you will experience in your own family. There is research that can help parents of preschoolers like you and I understand the unique challenges of this fun (and stressful) phase of life (Source: Duvall, 1988). It is not easy to parent your toddler and also invest the work required to maintain and improve your marriage. Scientists have learned that many parents our stage experience similar challenges. Understanding our shared struggles can help you know how to thrive. Today, you will learn more about these common challenges.
As the parent of a preschooler, you are very familiar with being tired! One of the major struggles you will experience during the toddler years will be exhaustion. But, not just physical exhaustion from a lack of sleep. Chances are, the mental and emotional strain of raising a toddler is more exhausting than the sleep deprivation in your current stage. Parenting a preschooler will mean you spend a lot of time listening, explaining, and helping your child learn new things. Your child is learning to regulate their emotions, so you will invest energy helping them cope with big feelings. All of these things add up to you feeling very tired and possibly even burnt out (Related article: How to Create a Stronger Family).
The burnout you feel raising your toddler puts strain on your marriage. If you and your spouse are using all of your mental and emotional resources to help your child, it will feel like there is not enough energy left over for each other! It’s important for you and your spouse to prioritize self-care. It is also important for you to make an effort to create quality time experiences for you and your partner (Related article: Emotional Intimacy and How to Get It). If you make sure to care for yourselves and your marriage, you will avoid burnout and have more emotional capacity to care for your child and each other effectively.
New Phase, New Roles
A new phase in your life will also create role changes in your marriage. As your child ages, responsibilities connected with them will change, too. This means that you and your spouse will need to work to adapt to these changes. Your days of cleaning bottles, endless night feedings, and recovery from pregnancy and childbirth will morph into days of park outings, preschool drop off, and playdates with other toddlers.
Another change you might experience during this time is adding more children to your family. As you and your spouse navigate new babies and your changing family, you will have the opportunity to work together and use your prior experiences to your advantage. If you make an effort to continue to strengthen your marriage and relationship as a couple during these changes, it will make the transition easier for you and your family as a whole.
Adapting to these changes in your lives doesn’t have to be painful or overwhelming. Research has found that if you and your spouse prioritize good communication and shared goals, you will be able to adapt and be resilient during these exciting changes in your marriage (Source).
Change is Good
When you work through challenges with your spouse in a productive way, you will find that you improve your connection as a couple. Marriage counseling can help you and your spouse learn more about each other, yourselves, and the best ways to help your marriage as you change and grow together.
Ready to get started in marriage counseling? Start couples therapy today in Orem, South Jordan, or Spanish Fork.
Written by Lauren Adkins