We have four young kids and my wife Ashley and I want to prepare them to be in a healthy marriage someday. We refuse to buy into the flawed modern belief that marriage success rates are just a 50/50 coin toss, so two of our four kids will probably end up divorced. We've seen that teaching the right principles early on can greatly enhance a child's likelihood of a thriving marriage later in life.
One of your most important duties as a parent is to equip your children for success in their future marriage. We're convinced that preparing for marriage doesn't start with a premarital counseling course. It should start MUCH sooner! It begins with teaching and modeling the right lessons for kids from the time they're very young. If you'll teach your kids these simple lessons, you'll be setting them up for success if their future marriage and family.
1. Strive to have the kind of marriage that makes your kids actually want to get married someday.
One of the most common mistakes in modern marriage is to put your own marriage relationship "on hold" while you're raising your kids. When you do this, you wind up with an "empty nest" and an empty marriage. One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is the security that comes from seeing their mom and dad in a loving, committed marriage.
2. Help your children have healthy relationships with siblings
This may seem unrelated to marriage, but it has a HUGE connection. The sibling relationship in childhood mirrors many aspects of the husband/wife relationship in adulthood. You're sharing space, sharing responsibilities, etc. When children learn to "play nice" and have love and respect for their siblings, their hearts and minds are being trained to better love and respect a spouse someday.
3. Help your kids choose the right friends and the right boyfriends/girlfriends
At any age, our friends have a huge influence on our behaviors and attitudes, so while your kids are young, help them determine the character traits they should look for in potential friends and, when they're ready to date, in potential boyfriends/girlfriends as well. Take an active interest in every one of their relationships.
4. Encourage them to only date a person who would make a good spouse
Parents who encourage their kids to date around just to get "experience" are unknowingly sabotaging their kids' future marriage. When kids date with no longterm purpose, their hearts and feelings get entangled and the breakups can leave lasting scars making trust and intimacy with a future spouse more difficult. If they know someone wouldn't make a good spouse someday, they have no reason to date that person in the first place.
5 . Encourage them to ask the right questions about any potential spouse BEFORE marrying them.
Before saying, "I do" your kids need to ask some difficult questions about the person they're considering marrying.
These questions are also a good prerequisite for any potential dating relationship
. The questions should include the following: Am I attracted to more than this person's looks? Do I actually like this person (would I want to hang out with them often even if we weren't dating)? Do I want my future kids to grow up to be like this person? Do the people who love me the most think this person is a good match for me? Does this person consistently bring out the best in me? Can I be myself around this person?
Does this person strengthen my faith and character or compromise my faith and character? Can I remain committed to this person no matter what?
6. Don't discourage them from marrying young (if they find the right person)
Many parents (with good intentions) encourage their kids to get their "life in order" (meaning have all their schooling finished, finances in order, etc.) before they consider marriage. When a young adult gets on this life plan, they may drag out a dating relationship in a perpetual state of heading nowhere or breakup with someone who would have been a great spouse because the "timing wasn't right." I'm not saying everyone should marry early, but many of the healthiest and happiest married couples I know married very young and then built their life together. It's worked for Ashley and me as well (we were 22 and 20 on our wedding day).
7. Encourage them to enter into marriage with no exit strategy!
When it comes time for your child to get married, encourage him/her to enter into the covenant of marriage with no Plan B! Help them remove the word "divorce" from their vocabulary, and if they call you to complain about their spouse, encourage them to stop complaining and start working it out with their spouse. Don't become an in-law who adds strain on the marriage. Be an in-law who becomes the biggest fan, friend and encourager of your new daughter- or son-in-law.
Be a lifelong cheerleader and supporter of their marriage.
This article was originally published on Patheos. It has been republished here with permission.