Episode 49: Creating a Legacy for Your Family

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Laura Weissman about how to create a legacy for our children.

We dive in and discuss how a family can define what a legacy means to them.  Weissman believes that most people think of family history and genealogy. Alternatively, the financial legacy is what people think of.  Weissman’s focus is on emotional legacy. If you look around at the most powerful and wealthy people in the world, you will often find that they are the most miserable.  The legacy Weissman is helping parents give to their children is emotional health, and how to have a relationship, and how to communicate in ways so that you are heard and can hear others.  Weissman feels that we can model relational space for our children. This is where parents and partners communicate and have respect for each other. Parents often provide wonderful extracurricular opportunities for their children but are yelling at their children and their spouse with negative criticism and insults.  The best way to ensure the best relationships for your children in the future is to show them how they work today.

We discuss how a family can become aware of their legacy and how to have a healthy influence over it.  Weissman provides that there is a lot of shame for mothers about “losing it” with their kids or partner.  She says that we need to give ourselves a little compassion. We can be good enough and imperfect parents.  When we mess up, we can go back and fix it. The best way to fix it is to know what happened. Weissman provides that if you totally blow up, you have a couple of choices.  One is that you can defend the behavior by saying that if the kids had done differently or if this hadn’t happened, then I wouldn’t have been so upset; however, no one in this world is responsible for the choices we make besides us.  If you run into a complete jerk in the parking lot, the way you respond to that person is who you want to be in this world.

We have to understand what caused our behavior in the first place.  If we perceive threat, there is no reasonable thinking going on. Perceived threat can be something as small as feeling like we do not matter.  In this moment, you just need to stop. Visualize whatever you need to make yourself stop. Mindfulness means that you are paying attention. If you notice you are really upset about something, you have to figure out what it is.  Weissman mentions that with the “tapping” technique, you can get a lot of clarity in a few minutes about what the problem is under the surface. You can go to your partner or child and ask if it is a good time to have a dialogue. If it is, you start off with “I” statements, such as, “When this happened, I felt…..”  We do this because the other person will shut down if you start yelling about everything they did.  If you do this consistently in front of your kids, this will model to them.

Often parents say they do not fight in front of their children, but by showing them how to work through these things, you will show them how to have the relationship of their dreams which is safe, loving, and connected.  She gives praise to parents who are able to restrain from doing this as it takes a lot of self-control to not get into triggering. There are things that are not for the children to hear, like if you commented on a parenting decision made by the other person.  For the most part, conflict is not about the person with whom we are angry but more about our reaction to the fact. This means that if there is a given fact and ten people in a room, these people will all respond in different ways based on their experiences. Weissman uses the image of two different worlds–people have different worlds where the language, landscape, culture, etc is different.  

Weissman provides that dialogue is specific and keeps you safe.  She gives the example of an appreciation dialogue. Weissman feels that we do not do this nearly enough with our kids or partners.  She mentions that John Gottman says that for every negative interaction, we need five positive ones just to maintain a relationship.   If people honestly take a look at their interactions with their partners, they would find that there is often not enough positive.

If your children see you working through issues by calmly discussing them as described above, they will learn that they can do things this way, too.  If they are upset with you over something, they can say, “Mom, when you told me to do this, it made me upset because…..”, and they will know that they are going to be heard.  This allows them to relax. When you are expecting something to happen and it doesn’t happen, you get very edgy. When your child knows that you will listen to him or her when they speak without criticism or judgement, there is a calm and trust in that.  To know that you matter as a child is everything.



Laura Weissman is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist in Newport Beach, CA, who specializes in relationships.  Laura has been married, divorced, re-married, a married mom, single mom, blended-family mom and is now thrilled to be a grandma. Through all of those stages and experiences in life, Laura has learned the art and science of relationships, and is passionate about sharing those lessons with others.



WEBSITE: www.psychedaboutlove.com

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