10. Smile, Your Marriage is On Kiddie Camera!
Updated: Aug 8, 2019
Marriage is defined as: “the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship.”
Your children Define marriage as: “The relationship between my parents.”
It may surprise you how much of yourself you see in your children. How much of your parents you see in yourself. Not only the physical attributes, but characteristics as well. When we speak to our children, we sometimes find ourselves saying things our parents would say to us years ago.
Similarly, when our children interact with each other or their friends we can see ourselves in the things they say and do.
Children are sponges, taking in everything they hear from us and see us do. We are their models for what they will be when they grow up and as such they record all they experience from us and play it back.
Our marriage is no different.
Children learn how to be husbands and wives from their parents. They learn their role, but more importantly learn how to interact with each other. For example, one of my clients thought they were doing a great job of hiding her and her husband’s arguments. Till one day, her daughter came to her and asked why Mommy and Daddy were angry at each other.
I am a firm believer in the concept that children know everything. They may not be aware of the details but trying to hide your feelings from your children is like trying to hide the fact that it’s cold in the winter. Children feel it. There is a scientific reason for this.
It has been well documented that when infants are born, their mother’s exhibit a “sixth sense” in knowing what their babies need. When a helpless baby cries in the middle of the night mothers can sense if they are hungry or wet or ill. There are two important facts that we fail to realize.
One is that the extra special connection between parents and their children work both ways. As much as parents can sense their children’s feelings and needs, children can also sense their parent’s feelings and needs. The other thing we fail to realize is that that connection never goes away.
We become accustomed to other forms of communication, but that “sixth sense” is always there. That is how even when we try to hide our true feelings from our children they know them. They may not know the what, where, and how of the fight but they know the feelings behind it.
Not only will your children internalize the feelings their parents have with each other but after some time these feelings will become normal. If there is a cold distance between parents, and this is accepted as normal then you can look forward to that child growing up and having a similar relationship with his/her spouse. Even if you “educate” your children on what is healthy, they will do what feels comfortable rather than what they know.
What are we to do as parents, to ensure our children don’t inherit our problems?
1) Be Honest
This does not mean air the dirty laundry with your spouse in front of your child. However, when there is tension in the house or cold distance between parents denying it to your children only tells them that what they sense is healthy and normal, a message you don’t want to give. Validating your children’s feelings is a much better Idea.
2) Saying You’re Sorry
We are all human and we make mistakes. But how many of us apologize in front of the kids? Our children see us argue, and they see us not argue. Do they ever get to see us apologize? If our children are learning from us how to get into fights they should learn from us how to get out. If a husband said to his wife at the dinner table, “you know honey, I’m sorry I snapped this morning I should not have yelled at you,” then his children will begin to learn that making mistakes is inevitable, and that the right way to respond is to take ownership of those mistakes and try to make amends.
3) Publicly Appreciate
Too often after years of marriage we accept our roles in the relationship and take them for granted. You may be ok with your spouse not verbalizing his or her appreciating the things you do but your children can’t afford to take them for granted. If you don’t appreciate each other in front of your children, they will assume it is all expected. This may be setting them up for great disappointment and frustration in their future relationships. It is a vital part of their education to become a spouse to learn how to appreciate their partner.
4) Work It
Relationships are not stagnant, they are fluid. They are always growing and shrinking. If you and your spouse are not getting closer you are getting further apart. It’s impossible to stay in the same place. That is why marriages take effort. If your children don’t sense your working on your marriage they will not develop that muscle when it comes time to work on their relationships.
5) Seek Guidance
Nobody can accomplish everything on his or her own. Sometimes we assume that because we are responsible for ourselves and our marriages, we have to face all the challenges ourselves. Asking for help is not a sign of failure, it’s a tool for success. The more our children learn from us to seek improvement shamelessly, the more paths will open up in their lives to success, health, and happiness.