We know back to school is a challenging time for the whole family. It is a big transition with many moving parts - both exciting and stressful. The added layers can sometimes leave couples feeling more stressed and frustrated during this time of change.
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish, sought-after couples therapist and author of I Didn't Sign Up for This, put together some key tips and tools that your clients can use to navigate this transition in the coming weeks to stay connected. When partners can practice daily rituals of connection, create weekly meetings, and tackle the mental load, they can feel more like a team.
Preparing Your Relationship for the Back-to-School Transition
Practice Daily Rituals of Connections
Connectivity is so important, and yet couples get stuck in negative communication cycles. You might often see partners get stuck in criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, shutting down, and contempt. This can lead in repeating patterns back and forth. When you have these negative communication cycles, your clients' needs continue to go unmet.
One of the best things you can tell your clients to help them maintain connection is to make sure they have a daily point of connection. You can encourage couples to find small things they can stack into their schedule, whether it's starting the day together or ending the day together. You can also encourage your clients to maintain physical touch. Research shows that a 30-second hug or a 6-second kiss will release oxytocin, resulting in you and your partner feeling closer.
Have a Weekly Check-In
Many disagreements during the week stem from couples not being on the same page. Encourage your client to think about something that's important to them, and ask them if their partner knows of its importance. Expectations that are not shared can often lead your clients to feeling stressed, disconnected, and more frustrated with their partner. Research shows that parents of small children spend less than 30 minutes a week talking with each other—and most of that time it involves transactional conversations.
Prompt your clients to schedule a weekly meeting with their partner. Inviting your clients plan ahead and set those expectations can offer them time to ask each other about issues they would not talk about otherwise. You can also offer them examples of questions to ask their partner during this conversation, like:
What is stressful that is on your plate this week? How can I support you through this?
What is something that you are grateful for about our relationship?
Was there a time last week when you needed my support and I wasn't there?
How can I show you love today?
Make the Invisible Visible
One of the most challenging aspects of any transition is the amount of work that is done before actually moving through that transition, or even during it. Encourage your clients to have a conversation with their partner to make all those invisible parts visible to both of them, including everything that needs to get done, and then task those items from start to finish. This needs to be a collaborative process. Remind them that they are part of a team and this can contribute to an overall feeling of connectivity.
I Didn’t Sign Up for This
Couples therapist Dr. Tracy Dalgleish has spent the last seventeen years dedicated to helping hundreds of couples in distress find hope and healing, sometimes by staying together and other times not. Breakdowns in communication, lack of intimacy, infidelity, overbearing in-laws and exes (to name a few) – she’s seen it all.
art memoir, part self-help, Dr. Tracy Dalgleish’s debut book provides a rare look inside real therapy sessions with four couples – and into her own marriage. With unflinching candor and heartfelt empathy, she digs to the root of the issues that fuel our day-to-day relationship conflicts and illuminates the common struggle of what it means to be human: the incredible difficulty of showing up wholly and authentically in our most intimate relationship with others and with ourselves.
Dr. Tracy Dalgleish is a clinical psychologist, couples therapist, and sought-after relationship expert. For over fifteen years, she has provided direct clinical services to couples and has dedicated her time to researching, writing, and speaking about relationships. Her goal is to make the skills and tools she teaches her clients more accessible so they can build healthier relationships with themselves and with others. She is the founder of Be Connected Digital and the owner of a mental health clinic, Integrated Wellness. She lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her husband and two children.
Learn more about her educational products, including upcoming live seminars, by clicking here.