Price: Your children are counting on you
Here I go aging myself again, but I bet some of you remember the song "School Days." The lyrics of the chorus are:
"School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic"
I had to go to YouTube to get the words just right and realized I probably never heard the song in its entirety. It’s actually a fairly senseless song, but oh well.
The return to school each fall is a hugely important time in the lives of our children and in the future life of our country for that matter. And that’s why I chose to write today’s column. I firmly believe we have dedicated teachers and administrators in our area who try their absolute best to educate and guide our young people toward successful lives. I also believe, however, that the best efforts of educators will fail if those efforts are undermined by the child’s life at home.
It is virtually impossible for a child to excel in school when his or her parents' marriage is crumbling at home. A broken heart is a huge roadblock to an engaged mind. Children need and deserve to know that their home is secure and that their parent’s will be together for them throughout their lives.
According to Michael McManus, a nationally syndicated columnist: “In addition, children from divorced families have more emotional and behavioral problems, negative feelings and less psychological well-being than those from intact families. Upon the divorce of their parents, children experience a wide range of emotional reactions such as sadness, anger, loneliness and depression (which frequently lasts into adulthood), heightened anxiety, worry, lower life satisfaction, lower self-esteem and self-confidence.”
Most parents are devoted to their children and want to give them their absolute best. Far too many parents make the mistake, however, of putting their children’s needs, interests and concerns before those of their marriage. Big mistake! Again, what children want most is a happy, secure, together home where dad loves and respects mom and vice versa. I can’t begin to count the number of people who have come to me for divorce mediation who gave so much to their children that they stopped focusing on their marriage.
So here’s a few pointers to help you stay focused on your marriage. In no particular order I suggest:
Have a list of reliable child care providers you can call on while you go out on a date night or even a getaway weekend. Grandparents love to serve in this capacity and usually at a very reasonable cost. You could also consider friends with children who would be willing to watch your children while you go out and you reciprocate for them another time.
Have a “deck of 10.” Each spouse has 10 index cards. On each card he or she writes down one activity they would like to do as a couple. These can range from small activities such as walk along the river to more involved undertakings such as take a cruise or go to Disney World. One spouse goes to the other’s deck, removes a card and arranges to make it happen. The receiving spouse returns the favor a week or two later and so on. If the card requires time and planning, you can break it up into segments. For example, you could set a time to go online or visit a travel agent to begin planning and preparing for your cruise or trip.
Expect that there will be times in your marriage when you will be upset with each other. These times are normal and do not indicate you married the wrong person or that you should look for someone else. To divorce with children is simply to trade one set of problems for another set of problems. I think I wrote that recently, but it bears repeating. In those times of disharmony and unrest, be quick to call a time-out before you say or do something you will later regret.
Never threaten the long-term view of the marriage or use the “D” word. There likely will be times when you might feel divorce is a good option. It’s OK to think or feel it, but not OK to give voice to those thoughts and feelings. Once you threaten to end the marriage, you send shock waves through your mate and he or she will begin to stop investing in a relationship that might be pulled out from under him or her. When you married, you made a vow to do life together — and only together — until death do you part. It might be a good idea to revisit those vows now and then as a protection against times you might consider violating them.
And, lastly here’s a few good habits to integrate into your marriage:
Pay attention to those moments when you part from each other at the start of the day and when you reconnect at the end. Each should be symbolized with some form of affection and loving words. I like the 10-second kiss. This is especially helpful when you get together after having been apart. You will be at different places emotionally, physically, etc. and a 10-second embrace can do wonders to bring you into alignment and bode well for a joyful evening together.
Daily play high-low-learn. Ask each other “What was the high point of you day, the low point, and what did you learn today?” This helps to keep you engaged in each other’s life. It is also a great game to play with your children and far better than asking “What did you do in school today?” Don’t you just love the standard answer? "Nothing."
Regularly ask your mate “What can I do to make your day better?” This could become a meaningless routine, but if done in sincerity and carried out, you will find yourself serving each other. It’s an amazing phenomenon that the more time and energy you spend focusing on meeting your spouse’s needs, the more you find your own needs being met in return.
There is certainly much more that I could have included concerning how to have a healthy, happy and thriving marriage, but they only give me a column — not the entire paper.
And, lastly please know there are numerous resources to help you succeed in your marriage. We have several competent, well-trained counselors in our area, and many are also available online. There are books and courses designed to help you succeed in this very important aspect of your life and your overall well-being. Please do whatever it takes to get your marriage where you want it to be.
Marriage really isn’t all that difficult when you know how to do it well, and when each spouse makes the commitment to make it work. The more knowledge, focus and attention you give to your marriage, the less work it takes, and the more your children will thank you down the road.
Ron Price is the owner and operator of Productive Outcomes Inc. and the author of "PLAY NICE in Your Sandbox at Work," an e-book available on Amazon. He can be reached at 505-324-6328.