December 13, 2017
This week, as a homework assignment for a class my wife and I are taking at church, we have had to spend time talking on the couch every day and go out on a date. I alluded to the challenges associated with the assignment in an earlier column, but I think it’s worth pointing out the seemingly counterintuitive reasoning behind the assignment. The class that we are doing the conversation time for is a parenting class. The first few weeks of the course focused on an unlikely topic: marriage health. I call it unlikely because I fully expected the opening weeks to talk about how to spend quality time with your child or how to engage in deep discussions with them or how to improve their self-esteem. However, the class spent weeks focusing on how to improve the quality of the marriage relationship. When I heard the reasoning, it made sense. Children are totally dependent on their parents for everything. It’s an easy reality to forget. Their food, shelter, emotional support, and everything else comes directly from their parents. In addition to being totally dependent, kids are emotionally undeveloped. They can’t cope with stress effectively because they aren’t emotionally equipped to do so. That’s not really a revolutionary statement at face value, but if you consider that any instability or conflict or even the concern about the future being unstable adds stress to their lives. So, parents that constantly argue or never talk to each other present to the child the potential that their home might not remain intact over the long term. This can be very stressful to a child whose whole world revolves around the family unit. The impact of a healthy marriage on a child’s development goes beyond the immediate stability aspect. Children watch how their parents interact and learn how to connect socially. It’s a bit of a stereotype, but a person’s romantic relationship typically looks a lot like their parents when they grow up. They see how spouses treat each other and unwittingly imitate it over the long run. Codependent parents tend to raise kids that become codependent adults. Emotionally distant parents raise kids who become emotionally distant adults. If you want to raise a son who treats his wife like a queen, treat your wife like a queen, and you will teach him to do the same. It also is the case that if you want your son to marry a woman who treats him well, moms need to treat their husbands well. Because kids learn to expect what they see in their parents’ relationship. It’s a crazy reality that the best way to ensure that your kids grow up emotionally healthy is to work on your marital health. This generally starts with spending time talking to each other and actively dating. It’s not easy to do in a life that is spread thin with kids’ activities and work requirements, but it’s one of the most important components in effective parenting.