Kids model our behavior. When they observe selfishness and turmoil in their parents' marriage, they will likely follow that pattern of behavior when they marry. Or, they may become skeptical of marriage altogether.
Unless you're Mr. and Mrs. Brady, it's safe to say that no marriage is picture perfect. But, there are specific things that parents can teach their kids about how to make marriage work and why marriage is wonderful.
1. Public displays of affection are OK
While I wouldn't recommend a passionate make-out session in front of your kids, hugs and kisses between Mom and Dad are great. Enveloping your spouse in a giant bear hug creates a visual image of your love.
Maybe your smooching embarrasses or annoys your teens. So what? Your children are given the assurance that their parents love each other, which actually adds to their sense of security.
2. Marriage is about communication and compromise
To some extent, every married couple disagrees and quarrels. Whether the argument is minor or not, your children pick up on the tension.
Show your kids that the mature way to handle a disagreement is to talk it out - calmly. Meet your spouse in the middle. Swallow your pride, apologize and smooth things over.
If you do blow your top in front of listening ears, it's important to reassure your kids that you still love each other. Assure them that your argument has nothing to do with them.
3. Serve your husband or wife
When your kids observe you lending a hand to your sweetheart, they learn such an important principle of a happy marriage. Pitching in to help your spouse with his chores, or surprising her with a favor to lighten her load doesn't go unnoticed. Set an example of service in your marriage.
4. Show respect for your spouse
Maybe some of your husband's clothing choices make you cringe. Or maybe your wife has an annoying habit of clearing her throat. It's probably best to work out your issues in private. Don't ever belittle or insult each other in front of your kids.
Also, make sure that your kids respect you both. You are the grown-ups. Don't allow back-talk, and don't indulge their complaints about your spouse.
For example, if you're the dad and your son grumbles to you, "I hate the way Mom makes me eat green beans," don't allow him to insult Mom. Teach him to speak respectfully. Defend each other, and you'll show your kids that you are a unified couple.
5. Marriage takes work
Maybe your relationship isn't all rosy, but you and your spouse are working things out. It's OK to help your kids understand that marriage is more than a honeymoon.
Teach your children that marriage is a commitment that involves a daily effort. And help them understand that the happiest married couples are friends. It's best to marry a person you respect, enjoy and feel comfortable with. Teach your kids to be totally certain and committed before they take that big step.
6. Some marriages don't last
Sadly, not all couples make it. The reasons (financial stress, affairs, addictions) are many and personal.
The confusion and turmoil for kids of divorce can be alleviated. Showing lots of tenderness, assuring your kids that the divorce is not their fault, and refraining from badmouthing the other parent are imperative.
Help your kids understand what creates a happy, healthy marriage through your words and example.