You may think that your marriage is just between you and your spouse. If you have kids, studies show that the way that you conduct your marriage is very much a family matter. What kids perceive about marriage from their parents starts at a very young age. Children pick up on many small details that parents may not even realize. That’s why working hard to have a happy marriage and modeling a healthy relationship are important for children’s holistic health as well as encouraging them to have good marriages in the future.
Most of us know by now, marriage is hard and it takes work and dedication. Two individuals forming a lifelong team, no matter how similar or different, no matter how much in love, no matter what their history may be, is difficult. There is no doubt about it, most marriages are met by periods of strife and discord. Some of these are irreversible and end in divorce or prolonged unhappy marriages. Others find rocky moments to be just a bump in an otherwise happy road. However it works out in your marriage, know that your children are keenly aware of how mommy and daddy act towards one another, from what they say, to their intimate connection, to how they spend time together.
Research shows that gender roles and how familial responsibilities are divided are far less influential on the long term psyche of children than the quality of their parents’ marriage. That is to say, what kids perceive about marriage from their parents is based on how their moms and dads behave towards one another. It’s known as modeling.
When children see their parents working together as a team – cooking dinner, completing a project, holding hands or showing other forms of affection, planning a vacation, or simply getting everything ready to leave the house for an outing – parents are modeling a healthy relationship. Words matter too, of course. Shouting, speaking unkindly and constant bickering makes an impression on children. However it’s the actions that speak the loudest when it comes to what kids perceive about marriage from their parents.
Modeling a strong marriage also includes being present when sharing with one another, finding work/life balance, respecting each other’s thoughts and opinions, spending quality time with one another and resolving conflicts. It’s unreasonable to think that parents won’t ever disagree in front of their children. But problem-solving and conflict resolution are tremendous opportunities to model positive behavior for our children.
According to Psychology Today, it’s also crucial to discuss marriage with your kids. At a young age this may just mean that you tell your kids how much mommy loves daddy and how their love together makes your family operate. As your children get older you can talk about the advantages of having a lifelong companion to share the good and the bad. You can also discuss the fact that everyone will have arguments, especially when you share your lives the way moms and dads do. But with love, hard work and perseverance, you can overcome the hurdles.
Your children are constantly drawing conclusions from modeling. If you model a healthy, positive relationship, your children have a better chance at good physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, as well as an understanding of a strong marriage for their own future.