6 WAYS TO MODEL A HEALTHY MARRIAGE FOR YOUR KIDS
Your kids watch your every move.
By Lauren McKeithen
Your kids learn from you in more ways than we know. They watch your reactions, moods, and how you respond to stress. They imitate you without realizing it, and often we wonder why our kids are the way they are. Well, look in the mirror.
When your children live under your roof, you have the immense responsibility to train them to be respectable, hard-working adults and how to live harmoniously with the people they live with, be they their siblings, roommates, and one day a spouse.
If you desire your children to get married in the future, there is no better time than now to model what a healthy marriage looks like. Unfortunately, there is no perfect marriage. We all fall short, and we all are desperate for help. We often carry baggage into our marriage from past experiences and past hurts. Unless you have the precious privilege of marrying young, there will most likely be mountains of difficulty to work through to create a thriving marriage. So, what does it look like to model a healthy marriage that is attainable and possible for our children?
Say you’re sorry.
Modeling humility and forgiveness can be life-giving in your marriage. When you can admit your faults, mistakes, and shortcomings and offer apologies, it speaks volumes in the hearts of your children. Modeling these precious values can teach them to live a life of humility themselves. It teaches them that it is OK to mess up, no one is perfect, and apologizing can free us from unneeded turmoil in our relationships.
Forgive one another.
This is a tough one. We can easily talk about and teach forgiveness, but modeling this can be difficult in our marriage. Forgiveness is not condoning one’s actions but freeing ourselves from the burdens of resentment. When your children see you asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness in your marriage, it will empower them to do the same in their relationships.
Prioritize time alone.
Remember the age-old proverb of putting on your oxygen mask before helping others. If you are not nurturing the foundational relationship of the family, then when push comes to shove and real issues arise, where will the stability in the family be? It needs to be the marriage relationship that is nurtured first. Prioritize spending time alone, encouraging, and allowing the marriage to thrive. If you are in the stage of parenting with little ones, this can seem impossible. Do what you can. Spend five minutes a day doing check-in and letting the kids know that mom and dad need their time. If you have needy babies that don’t understand, then be creative and find pockets of time to check in or snuggle. When your kids see this behavior, it will give them a sense of stability in the family, knowing that mom and dad are solid, that the family is solid. This can be challenging, but it will speak loudly to your children when it is prioritized.
Respect each other.
As Thumper in Disney’s “Bambi” would say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Be respectful. Don’t speak unkind words when your spouse isn’t around. Show the children that you are on the same team. Speak kind words to each other. Yes, couples fight, and children witnessing conflict and resolution are healthy. However, be aware that your children are watching, always watching. Respect your spouse. Fight fair. Be gracious and forgiving. Say please and thank you and love them the way you want your children to love.
Don’t let the mundane day-to-day get in the way of having fun. Joke with your spouse. Play fun games with your kids. Be silly. Tickle each other and make each other laugh. Life can get so serious, so it is good for our children to see that there is much joy to be had during a regular day. When they see you enjoying each other’s company, that will model a valid and thriving marriage for them. It doesn’t mean that there are no problems and struggles, but it will show them that even amidst trials, there is joy.
Serve each other.
It can be exhausting with all the demands of the family to go outside of yourself and serve someone that can do things for themselves. When we serve our spouses in front of our children, it teaches them that it is possible to lay ourselves aside for another person. Marriage is a covenant to help each other be all they can be. Serving can look like a lot of things. It can be simply getting up from the table and getting something your spouse needs, giving them a night off from bath and bedtime duty, giving them space to do something they love, and helping them with a project. The list is endless. So think about how you can serve your spouse today. How can you model servanthood for your children in your marriage?
Children learn from their parents how to act, treat others, be kind and confident, and the fundamentals of relationships. Kids are always watching and observing. Even when you think they are tuned into the TV or playing nearby, they watch how you interact, your body language, and the inflection of your voice.
We spend a lot of time teaching our kids verbally, but powerful lessons are also taught through our actions. When you put in the work to keep your partnership, you teach your kids about proper communication, handling conflict, how to compromise, what positive intimacy looks like, and striking a balance between family, work, and home. Modeling healthy behavior is suitable for children and essential for a strong marriage. This is a training ground for children to have healthy relationships.
When you treat your spouse well, you set an excellent example for your kids. No matter what it seems like, your son or daughter is watching how you talk to each other. Marriage is hard. It’s OK for kids to know that. It is hard but worth it.