Many people stay in a marriage because of the kids, or let a marriage deteriorate because they put the kids first. This doesn’t work. The goal of parenting is to raise well-adjust, confident kids, but one of the biggest factors of their well-being is their home life. That involves Mom, Dad, and how well both you you get along. Though they may not understand everything that’s going on, they will sense the tension and power play. And, the kind of family dynamics they grow up in will affect their sense of security and what they expect from their own relationships. Here are some ‘marriage mistakes’ that can hurt them in the long run.
Do you avoid conflict at all costs? Are you submissive, the resentment simmering beneath the surface? Or do you simply don’t talk about problems, because you’re too tired or busy to ‘deal with it’? Or maybe you don’t fight because you don’t talk, and are drifting apart.
This kind of silence isn’t really a sign of peace but of supression. But it teaches kids to run away from conflict or lapse into two kinds of roles: the dominator, and the dominated. Your daughters, in particular, may learn to be just as submissive with their boyfriends. Your sons may also grow insensitive to feelings—their own, and other people’s.
Don’t be afraid of arguments: they are simply the process by which you put an issue on the table and begin to work on it. The really bad arguments begin when you actually lose sight of the issue and start attacking each other’s characters. And if tempers fly, say sorry—and if the kids see you fight, let them see you acknowledging your faults and working things out, too. They’ll realize that a few spats are part of a healthy relationship.
Kids need to see that marriage is a partnership where both husband and wife share the responsibilities of parenting, household, and finances. A lot of moms still do the brunt of the housework, even if they work, creating the myth of the Supermom and perpetuating the gender roles.
Of course no couple can have equal responsibility and equal income all the time .We pitch in where we can, but the trouble starts when we start comparing notes and won’t ask for help (or give it) when we’re overwhelmed. Be sensitive to each other’s needs and create a family culture where everyone pitches in, even the kids.
Kids can pick up on their parents’ pessimism and depression. And since they have no sense of perspective, even a flippant comment like, ‘We’re so broke!’ or venting about the cost of tuition or groceries can create anxiety. They may blame themselves or grow up thinking that there is never enough.
While it’s important that kids know that they need to work hard and save in order to get what they want, it’s unfair to expect them to take the emotional brunt of adult problems (like thinking about where to get next month’s rent). If you do need to loop them into problems, present it in a concrete and specific way where they know they can do something. For example, ‘Money is a little tight since Dad lost his job, but we can do things together. Here are some ways we can save money. Who wants to be in charge of coupons? And since I’ll be working longer hours, I really need you guys to help out with the chores. Let’s divide them now.’
Photo from bradpetehoops.blogspot.com