Oct 062015 7 Responses

Four Things Kids Need to See in Marriage

Kids are watching. More than just watching, they are unconsciously writing their expectations for marriage. You are defining for them what marriage is all about.

Whenever I speak with a couple before they are married, I’m always intrigued to hear about the marriages of their parents. No matter their feelings toward their parent’s relationship, those relationships will deeply influence the marital relationships of the children.

Many of the expectations you have regarding how your spouse should act and how you function within a marriage is a direct result of the marriages you saw while growing up–parents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, etc.

Knowing our kids are watching our marriage should greatly influence our actions. The greatest impact you can have on your child’s marriage is to develop a strong marriage with your spouse.

Kids need to see four things in marriage:

1. Affection. They won’t like it. They will make noises, cover their eyes, and talk about how gross it is. Yet kids need to see affection modeled in the home. While there are clear boundaries (install a good lock on your bedroom door), common touching, hugging, and kissing needs to be on display for the kids to see. (See: A Touchy Subject in Marriage)

Displayed affection between spouses illustrates healthy sexuality. It assures a child that the foundation of their family is strong. And it empowers children to grow and develop while knowing they always have a safe place to return.

2. Trust. I fully trust my wife with my heart, my stories, and my life. I know she would never intentionally harm me, embarrass me (too much), or violate the trust I have given her. That trust influences every aspect of our relationship. I don’t have to question her motives, doubt her intentions, or hesitate before revealing my thoughts with her. Trust strengthens communication, provides a safe place to deal with difficult issues, and deepens the connection between a husband and wife. (See: Trust Is Everything in Marriage)

When kids see trust between their parents, the children learn how to properly give trust to others. They can distinguish between trustworthy and untrustworthy people. As they grow they can take the risk of loving another person because they have seen the value of a trusting relationship.

3. Grace. No where is grace more needed than in marriage. And no where is it more powerful than in marriage. When a marriage is permeated by grace, children understand they do not have to pretend to be perfect. Watching their parents lovingly deal with the mistakes and faults of one another allows a child to see how they will be treated when they fail. (See: A True Picture of Justice and Grace)

Grace is a prerequisite for a successful marriage. It is so contrary to human nature, we must receive it before we can give it. Yet when we understand our need for grace, we begin to give it to others as well. When grace is modeled within a marriage, children begin to understand how a healthy marriage is possible.

4. Fun. Life is better because we are together. Marriage isn’t always fun and can be very difficult, but by and large fun should define much of marriage. Laughter, playfulness, and joy are key elements of a good marriage. When marriage is fun, kids are drawn toward other elements of a good marriage–self-sacrifice, humility, and commitment. However, when a couple no longer enjoys one another or marriage, they send the message to their children that the work of marriage is not worth it. (See: Playfulness–One Sign of a Healthy Marriage)

Fun places conflicts, frustrations, and struggles into a larger context. The negative is overwhelmed by the positive. Love is fun. When the fun is gone, chances are a couple is not doing a good job at loving one another. Why would a child seek a healthy relationship when their main model for marriage is boring, sad, or angry.

Kids are always watching. It’s the scary thing about parenting and a wake up call regarding marriage. While there are many reasons we should seek a healthy marriage, one important reason is because we are impacting our children’s future marriages. Whatever they see will become their normal. You can’t be perfect, but you can be improving.

7 Responses to Four Things Kids Need to See in Marriage
  1. Kathryn Reply

    Our denomination is having a big confab on marriages this month. I wish you were there to guide the “powers that be” in charge of it all. Lots of good stuff on this blog.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you Kathryn. In the future, I would be happy to help in whatever way I can.

  2. Janna Reply

    So much truth here. When our marriage was at its lowest point in 2011 it was actually our six year old daughter who pointed it out. “How come yall fight all the time now?” was her wise question. How humbling that was because we foolishly thought she hadn’t noticed. Marriage counseling for a year, God’s hand, and a pastor who cheered us and continues to cheer us on and we are healthier than we have ever been. I have also learned that children are watching and modeling how we grieve. We do not hide the sadness that we feel for their brother who has passed away, but we are diligent to put it in as positive light as possible.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      Thank you Janna. I appreciate your humility to respond to your daughter’s statement with effort. It makes all the difference.

  3. Tracy Reply

    Thank you so much for your insights. Looking back, I know now how unhealthy my parents’ marriage was, and what a negative impact it had on my own “search” for a mate. My husband and I have discussed this very issue and know that our children are watching us. It is so funny when they see us kiss; our three children have mixed responses, but they are all smiling. This tells me we are at least on the right track. So glad to be attending CBC to get all your other great messages. Thanks Kevin.

  4. […] After many days of personally experiencing the conversation above, I found that a simple tweak to my... kevinathompson.com/three-questions-to-ask-your-kids-every-day

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