I am an advocate of a two parent home largely because I was not part of one. My mother and father divorced when I was little and my mother did not remarry. I don't blame her for choosing to stay single after my father. She dealt with a lot of emotional abuse that would last her a lifetime. In some sense, I believe she wanted to protect us from another potentially "bad" relationship.
I could write a book just on the effects of divorce on children alone, but this isn't the article. I am simply sharing some history about my own family because I feel that I missed out on some valuable lessons about positive relationships. Now, many years later, with a family of my own, I am aware of my own family dynamics. My husband and I work hard in our marriage for one another, but we also allow our children to see the good, the bad and the ugly.
Many of my friends have told me they have never seen their parents fight nor have they overheard decisions on family financial matters being made. At one time, I thought that was how I would handle my own family matters, but it just didn't work for us. My husband and I want our children to be aware of what it takes to actually make a marriage work day-to-day I want them to understand it's not always about the glass slipper, but the daily grind.
Here is a list of things I personally think kids need to see us doing, as couples, in our marriages. What would you add to the list?
For me, this one was the hardest. Religion might have been woven in my childhood somewhere, but I don't ever recall praying as a family. Prayer was always addressed as something you did in your personal time with God. So praying together as a couple and as a family was a little odd at first. (Not for the kids but for us) Desiring our family to have a prayer time together, we started at dinner with my husband leading. Slowly, the kids started praying around the table. Now, it's not uncommon for the kids to see us, as a couple, praying over the smallest matters. Before big decisions are made, the kids know it will be prayed about. If you want your kids to have a desire for God, they need to see a genuine desire for Him from you. And I can tell you first hand that it can do wonders for your marriage when you share such intimate times.
2. Make decisions
Children should see their parents consulting one another before making decisions, be they big or small. There is nothing wrong with a couple disagreeing on what the best decision for the family might be. The point for your children is not to see who wins. The point is to show them that even in times when you disagree, you can find a compromise. Allowing your children to see you making decisions TOGETHER will not only show them how to be a decision maker but a team player. Decision making should never be one sided.
Yes, it's truly OK for your children to see you at a time where you just don't like one another very much. But I do not mean physical confrontation or angry outbursts where you are directing profanity or insults toward your partner. THAT IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE. But your kids won't be in therapy if they see mom and dad disagree either. In fact, fighting is a chance to let your kids see how to handle conflict respectfully and maturely.
I had a friend that idolized her parent's marriage. She never saw them fight or disagree. When she got married, she had distorted expectations of her spouse. It caused great tension and eventually led to a divorce.
4. Show affection
What is the greatest thing about fighting with your spouse? You get to make up! Number 3 and #4 go hand in hand but showing affections for your spouse is very important. You want your kids to understand that the desire for their significant other is vital and mutual. Don't we all want our children to find someone that will love them and show them that they are loved?
I believe that children need to know that even after they are married, they still must pursue their spouse. Our children laugh and cover their eyes when they see my husband and I kiss, but there is a look of content on their faces too. They know we love each other because we show it not only in our speech, but our actions. Your kids might roll their eyes, tell you to get a room or utter TMI under their breath, but deep down you are providing a sense of security.
By letting your children see you in your day-to-day marriage, you are showing your children that your family is here to stay ... through the good, the bad and the ugly.