How To Model Marriage For Your Kids
As a parent, we teach our kids everything from feeding and clothing themselves to how to get the best deal on the dress they want. We try to show them how to become independent and responsible citizens of the world.
Yet, it seems that with divorce rates staggeringly high, and so many putting off marriage, we don't seem to be doing that great a job of teaching our kids about the institution and about longtime committment.
What are we doing wrong and how do we fix it?
Our kids learn about the world by bearing witness. They watch everything we do and like everything else we teach them, we need to be good role models about marriage. We must, through our actions, show them how a good marriage works, and teach them specific ways to keep marriage strong.
How to be a role model for marriage:
1. Be Truthful: No marriage is perfect and kids need to know that. There will be bumps along the way; some will be ones we can hop over and some will need cranes to lift us over. Don't try to hide the bumps; rather show them that when they arise, it is possible to survive them. At my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary party, my grandmother said, "It's been a great 40 years." When we corrected her, she said, "No I meant 40. All put together, about 10 weren't so great." Soooo very true.
2. Be Affectionate: If your kid has never watched the two of you hug or kiss and said, "ewww, that is so disgusting," you are doing something wrong. Show them that marriage is more than just two people living together; there should be chemistry and it should be ok to express it.
3. Demonstrate Committment: When the going gets tough is when marriage is most important. As a society, we tend to think that when things get hard, we should reevaluate and then give up. Sometimes, the grass is really not greener elsewhere and kids should know that taking the easy way out is not an option. They need to hear from you that once committed, you must do everything in your power to stick to your promises. Show them that fighting and disagreement is safe within marriage. They need to understand that when they find their own spouses there will be disagreements from time to time and that that's ok. Remind them that you are in it for the long haul and "this, too, shall pass."
4. Respect Your Spouse: It's fine for kids to see parents clearly on opposite sides of things. As they get older, they will better understand but will be no less fearful about what that means to your relationship if you don't treat your spouse with respect and love. What scares kids is when they know there is tension and they witness disrespect, meanness, physical or psychological abuse. Long lasting marriage can't be achieved if we mistreat one another.
5. Be A Good Couple And You Will Be Good Parents: My husband and I have had a "date night" every Saturday night possible ever since the kids were babies. In the beginning my mom kept the kids, then we employed sitters and now, we are experiencing empty nest syndrome (yup, it's a good as promised). Show your kids that you are more than friends and are excited to spend time together. Dress up, and make an effort to plan the evening. Kids need to see that you care about each other and that you have a life and relationship outside of being their parents. You won't do nearly as good a job if you aren't a strong couple first. Work at and nurture your relationship.
Great relationships make great marriages, and while marriage is love and commitment for sure, it's also hard work and patience.
How do you model marriage for your kids?