Yesterday was National Parents Day, an annual observance that was created by Congress with the goal of “recognizing, uplifting, and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.” Of the many roles we play in life, it’s safe to say that being parents is the one that has the greatest impact. After all, what we do as parents affects the next generation, and by extension, the generation after that, and … you get the point.

Being a parent is rarely easy, and despite the fact that hundreds of books have been written on the subject, there’s no easy instruction guide. Every family and every child is different, and every parent will face challenges, some of which can be overwhelming.

A common question we hear is “How can I be a better parent?” Our answer might surprise you. If you want to be a highly effective parent, work on being a better spouse. It’s absolutely true! Children look to the adults in their lives as models for behavior, and the adults they know best are their parents. Kids learn based upon what they see and hear. Just think about the first time you heard your child using one of those bad words … and immediately realized they heard it from you. Or consider that time you watched your child’s frustration turn into anger, and felt like you were watching a video of your own reactions.

Your relationship with your husband or wife becomes the standard your children will use to measure their own relationships and those of others around them. Your kids pay attention to things that you can’t imagine they actually notice. Their communication with others is based upon the way you communicate with each other. Kids watch how you present your needs to each other, and how each of you responds to those needs. They love it when you’re affectionate and playful. They become concerned when you’re tense or anxious. And they’re especially fascinated when you argue. In fact, how the two of you handle conflict may be one of the most powerful factors in their own adult relationships.

We’re not saying your marriage needs to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. That’s not realistic. But if your interactions are truly loving, and you handle life’s good and bad moments well, you give them a solid foundation to build upon. They learn things like compassion, truth, faith, and forgiveness through your examples. You can tell a child that it’s important to keep God in their daily lives, but when they see you actually live your faith through your actions, it makes a much more compelling case.

The other advantage of focusing on being a better spouse is that there will come a day when your children embark on lives of their own, and the two of you will be alone again. Too many couples forget about nurturing their own relationships, and when the nest empties out, they no longer know each other, and become strangers sharing a home.

So making time for each other isn’t being selfish. Frankly, it’s one of the most unselfish things you can do as a parent.

Using the evidenced-based Prepare/Enrich program at Care to Change, our professionals help pre-married couples, newlyweds and even couples who have been married for decades. Marriage certainly isn’t the easiest relationship, but it is well worth the effort when you see your children and grand-children have successful relationships of their own.  If you know someone engaged to be married or newly married, and you’d like to give a unique gift to help them be successful, or if you would like a tune-up on your marriage, contact us. It’s why we’re here.

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