Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Does Marriage Matter?

If you watch mainstream television, you might think that marriage is more like a side dish for families – where the stability of a marital relationship is an “extra” for the health, success, and future of our children. However, as I stood in church today I was again reminded that marriage is more like the main course in our families, and that our children need us to do everything we can to create healthy, nurturing marriages – for their sakes. During the service anyone who had been married at our church was invited to stand in a brief moment of recognition for all of the lives that had been joined within those walls. As I stood, recalling my own marriage there almost 17 years ago, I saw an elderly couple ahead of me whisper to each other, smile, and gesture at all of the people standing around them. I wondered what their whispers were saying; wondered what their knowing smiles meant.

This isn’t a referendum on single, divorced, or cohabitating parents, and it is not a religious agenda in disguise. Whether you believe that marriage is a sacred comittment, a socially acceptable promise, or an outdated social invention, the effects married parents can have on their children are real. It is about the research supported facts about marriage and roles it plays in our children’s lives. The good, the bad, and the average marriages.

How Does Cohabitation Affect Children?

This is a look at marriages, and what they mean for our children, especially in light of the changing trends in family structures in society. One of those trends is that of cohabitation – either biological parents living together outside of marriage and raising children or one parent living with either a boyfriend or girlfriend and raising children.

Cohabitation now accounts for a larger percentage of family structures than does single parenting. While approximately 20% of children live with single parents, 24% of children live with cohabitating parents (more than 4 out of 10). Cohabitation is not new, but the idea of it is becoming more mainstream and accepted. As it does so, the effects of this family structure are becoming clearer. Cohabitation does not provide children with the same security and stability as having married parents does, and it can increase the likelihood of unhealthy outcomes.

You might think that cohabitating adults offer a better scenario than single parents, where there is more energy, time, attention, and resources available for the children. However, research shows that across all three main areas of abuse – physical, sexual, and emotional – parents with cohabitating partners have children who are at most risk for abuse, far outweighing single parent households. Cohabitating couples with a child together are also twice as likely to separate before their child is 12 when compared with married couples.

How Does Family Structure Affect Children?

Children thrive in stable, nurturing environments. Research shows that across multitudes of levels, children who live in a home where there is a healthy, marital relationship between parents experience the most benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these children are:

  • More likely to attend college
  • More likely to succeed academically
  • Physically and emotionally healthier
  • Less likely to attempt or commit suicide
  • Less likely to demonstrate behavioral problems in school
  • Less likely to be a victim of physical or sexual abuse
  • Less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • More likely to have better relationships with their own parents
  • Less likely to become divorced in their adult lives
  • Less likely to become a pregnant teen or teen parent
  • Less likely to be sexually active as a teen
  • Less likely to contract an STD
  • Less likely to be raised in poverty

Increasingly kids are raised in what some refer to as “complex households” (where children live with non-biological caregivers, step-siblings and parents, and non-family members). Family life in complex households impacts the futures of children. The more transitions there are for children, such as cohabitating parents breaking up and forming new adult relationships, the more likely those children are to experience negative issues such as school failures and drug abuse. They are also more likely to have poor relationships with their family members and experience health problems.

Unhealthy Marriage vs. Healthy Single Parent

There are those instances where parents together as married adults are not more effective or nurturing than they are as single parents. I have seen marriages fall apart and children appear to be healthier and happier, especially when there is an abusive relationship involved. Being married does not guarantee healthy children. Working to create a healthy marriage appears to be the key – and I stress working – as in constant work-in-progress. Authors of Why Marriage Matters wrote that “Marriages that are unhealthy do not have the same benefits as the average marriage.” But what in the world is an average marriage?

If you have ever read 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, by John and Julie Gottman, you might get a sense of an average marriage. There is strife, discord, love, and commitment all rolled into that one relationship. Some couples argue over every little thing, and others hold it all in and wait for the big explosion, while others yet seem to have mastered communication skills. In average marriages there are disagreements, arguments, painful emotions, unrecognized feelings, and apathy. While it doesn’t sound like a recipe for a warm and nurturing relationship, we have to look a little deeper.

If I have a disagreement with my husband and find a resolution, we teach our children perseverance and respect in relationships.

If I support my husband’s interests (even when they are far from my own – like hunting), I teach my children that differences don’t have to separate.

If I go on date night even when I feel like I would rather curl up in my pajamies (yep – that’s our word) after a horrendously busy week, I teach my children that we need to put priorities on relationships instead of things. (And then I’m always glad I went on date night.)

If I cry and my husband comforts me (even when he has no idea why I am crying), it teaches my children what a healthy, respectful relationship looks like.

If I give up on my marriage when the times are tough – because they will be at one time or another – I teach my children that our beliefs about commitment, relationships, and each other aren’t what they thought. That is one lesson I am not ready to teach them. So as I stood there in church today, looking at the elderly couple ahead of me, I prayed for the strength and wisdom that is needed to keep my marriage healthy and happy – perhaps average some days – but always an extraordinary gift for my kids.

Related posts:

  1. Does Spelling Really Matter in Your Child’s Education?
  2. How to Raise Healthy Children by Creating a Healthy Marriage
  3. 5 Ways a Baby Made My Marriage Better

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids | BetterParenting.com

Does Marriage Matter?

If you watch mainstream television, you might think that marriage is more like a side dish for families – where the stability of a marital relationship is an “extra” for the health, success, and future of our children. However, as I stood in church today I was again reminded that marriage is more like the main course in our families, and that our children need us to do everything we can to create healthy, nurturing marriages – for their sakes. During the service anyone who had been married at our church was invited to stand in a brief moment of recognition for all of the lives that had been joined within those walls. As I stood, recalling my own marriage there almost 17 years ago, I saw an elderly couple ahead of me whisper to each other, smile, and gesture at all of the people standing around them. I wondered what their whispers were saying; wondered what their knowing smiles meant.

This isn’t a referendum on single, divorced, or cohabitating parents, and it is not a religious agenda in disguise. Whether you believe that marriage is a sacred comittment, a socially acceptable promise, or an outdated social invention, the effects married parents can have on their children are real. It is about the research supported facts about marriage and roles it plays in our children’s lives. The good, the bad, and the average marriages.

How Does Cohabitation Affect Children?

This is a look at marriages, and what they mean for our children, especially in light of the changing trends in family structures in society. One of those trends is that of cohabitation – either biological parents living together outside of marriage and raising children or one parent living with either a boyfriend or girlfriend and raising children.

Cohabitation now accounts for a larger percentage of family structures than does single parenting. While approximately 20% of children live with single parents, 24% of children live with cohabitating parents (more than 4 out of 10). Cohabitation is not new, but the idea of it is becoming more mainstream and accepted. As it does so, the effects of this family structure are becoming clearer. Cohabitation does not provide children with the same security and stability as having married parents does, and it can increase the likelihood of unhealthy outcomes.

You might think that cohabitating adults offer a better scenario than single parents, where there is more energy, time, attention, and resources available for the children. However, research shows that across all three main areas of abuse – physical, sexual, and emotional – parents with cohabitating partners have children who are at most risk for abuse, far outweighing single parent households. Cohabitating couples with a child together are also twice as likely to separate before their child is 12 when compared with married couples.

How Does Family Structure Affect Children?

Children thrive in stable, nurturing environments. Research shows that across multitudes of levels, children who live in a home where there is a healthy, marital relationship between parents experience the most benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, these children are:

  • More likely to attend college
  • More likely to succeed academically
  • Physically and emotionally healthier
  • Less likely to attempt or commit suicide
  • Less likely to demonstrate behavioral problems in school
  • Less likely to be a victim of physical or sexual abuse
  • Less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • More likely to have better relationships with their own parents
  • Less likely to become divorced in their adult lives
  • Less likely to become a pregnant teen or teen parent
  • Less likely to be sexually active as a teen
  • Less likely to contract an STD
  • Less likely to be raised in poverty

Increasingly kids are raised in what some refer to as “complex households” (where children live with non-biological caregivers, step-siblings and parents, and non-family members). Family life in complex households impacts the futures of children. The more transitions there are for children, such as cohabitating parents breaking up and forming new adult relationships, the more likely those children are to experience negative issues such as school failures and drug abuse. They are also more likely to have poor relationships with their family members and experience health problems.

Unhealthy Marriage vs. Healthy Single Parent

There are those instances where parents together as married adults are not more effective or nurturing than they are as single parents. I have seen marriages fall apart and children appear to be healthier and happier, especially when there is an abusive relationship involved. Being married does not guarantee healthy children. Working to create a healthy marriage appears to be the key – and I stress working – as in constant work-in-progress. Authors of Why Marriage Matters wrote that “Marriages that are unhealthy do not have the same benefits as the average marriage.” But what in the world is an average marriage?

If you have ever read 10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage, by John and Julie Gottman, you might get a sense of an average marriage. There is strife, discord, love, and commitment all rolled into that one relationship. Some couples argue over every little thing, and others hold it all in and wait for the big explosion, while others yet seem to have mastered communication skills. In average marriages there are disagreements, arguments, painful emotions, unrecognized feelings, and apathy. While it doesn’t sound like a recipe for a warm and nurturing relationship, we have to look a little deeper.

If I have a disagreement with my husband and find a resolution, we teach our children perseverance and respect in relationships.

If I support my husband’s interests (even when they are far from my own – like hunting), I teach my children that differences don’t have to separate.

If I go on date night even when I feel like I would rather curl up in my pajamies (yep – that’s our word) after a horrendously busy week, I teach my children that we need to put priorities on relationships instead of things. (And then I’m always glad I went on date night.)

If I cry and my husband comforts me (even when he has no idea why I am crying), it teaches my children what a healthy, respectful relationship looks like.

If I give up on my marriage when the times are tough – because they will be at one time or another – I teach my children that our beliefs about commitment, relationships, and each other aren’t what they thought. That is one lesson I am not ready to teach them. So as I stood there in church today, looking at the elderly couple ahead of me, I prayed for the strength and wisdom that is needed to keep my marriage healthy and happy – perhaps average some days – but always an extraordinary gift for my kids.

Related posts:

  1. Does Spelling Really Matter in Your Child’s Education?
  2. How to Raise Healthy Children by Creating a Healthy Marriage
  3. 5 Ways a Baby Made My Marriage Better

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids | BetterParenting.com

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