Fostering Authenticity in Our Children for Healthy Relationships

How to model elements of a healthy romantic relationship to help your children build a solid foundation for long-lasting love.

By Carrie Roberson Fasola, MS, LMFT, AASECT

As a parent, I often spend time thinking about who my children’s future partners will be.


Will they be respectful and treat them with kindness? Will trust and empathy be at the core of their relationship?


While I won’t have control over their choice of partner, I can model elements of a healthy romantic relationship to help my children build a solid foundation for long-lasting love.

While I won’t have control over their choice of partner, I can model elements of a healthy romantic relationship to help my children build a solid foundation for long-lasting love.

Concepts to focus on with your own children:

  • Build emotional intelligence. 
    • Labeling your children’s feelings as they grow and learn gives structure to their emotional selves. Make it safe to share by validating difficult feelings and celebrating successes.
    • Help them identify their interests and desires, then work together to build confidence to pursue what they want. Get a feelings chart or make your own with pictures of your child. Use this emotional language often.


  • Don’t dismiss, hide, or lie about your own experience.
    • When you have an emotion, own it. This helps children match the emotion they are seeing to a particular word which helps avoid future confusion. Power is given to emotions based on the reactions and consequences we get, not the actual emotion itself. There are no negative emotions.


  • For older children, follow a popular television series together.
    • Discuss what each character might be thinking, feeling, or experiencing and what obstacles they are facing.
    • Offer alternatives when pop culture depicts relationships in unrealistic or limiting terms. Continue the conversation by asking them what is going on at school in those relationships they are a part of or ones they’ve been observing.


  • Model health in your own relationships.
    • Allow children of all ages to see a portion of conflict and also how it resolves. Having no conflict in relationships is not healthy or realistic.
    • Develop healthy boundaries, express them, and be vulnerable! Offer your children an example of the fundamental element each relationship must have to succeed: a balance of independence and autonomy with intimacy and connectedness.


  • Decrease co-dependent characteristics. 
    • Co-dependent means compromising your values and wants to avoid rejection or strong emotion in another. The origins of co-dependency begin in childhood and are almost always replicated in adult relationships.
        1. Being an inflexible or rigid, type A “Superparent”.
          • Assess areas where you can offer your child choices (clothing, foods, activities, friends). Children need to learn they have a level of agency over their lives; someone else doesn’t control them.
          • Ask yourself often, “Why not?” when your child communicates a desire that doesn’t exactly fall in line with what you want them to do.
        2. Having your child meet your needs.
          • Invest in yourself instead of living for your child.
          • The “Look Mom/Dad!” phase may continue into adulthood if their value comes from pleasing you. Encourage self-praise and self-soothing.
        3. Wanting to solve problems for your children.
          • The message, over time, is they aren’t competent or responsible enough to solve their own problems and someone else should do it for them.
          • If there is no safety issue, just listen and potentially ask questions for more information. Hearing themselves talk it through, the child will likely figure out a few things to do differently.

Carrie Roberson Fasola is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at Relationship Restoration in Raleigh and has a Master’s degree from the nationally accredited Marriage and Family Therapy program at East Carolina University. Drawing on over ten years of experience in practice, Carrie joins her clients in seeking relief from the destructive cycles of criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt to find peace in autonomy and closeness in relationships. Carrie has extensive training in research based approaches, specifically, Emotionally Focused Therapy and Gottman Techniques to help even the most stuck couples find renewed intimacy. An AASECT Certified Sex Therapist, Carrie has a deep understanding of the sexual and power struggles a relationship can face. With an interest in Medical Sex Therapy, Carrie works with sexual dysfunction of all types to bring relief from years of disconnection to one’s body and in the couple’s sexual relationship. She has a special interest in helping couples and individuals navigate through affair recovery and compulsive sexual behaviors to find connection through vulnerability.

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