This is a topic I have no expertise on. Since none of my kids are yet married, I cannot say that this advice will work… so I don’t offer advice, but rather share where my thinking is at.
There are many things that I want for my kids – I want them to be employable so they can be responsible in life. I want them to be of good standing in their community. I want them to be a good marriage partner. I want them to be good parents. I want them to enjoy their siblings as adults. I want them to be a good friend and to have good friends. I want them to be good stewards of the possessions and gifts God has given them. I want them to dream and walk in their dreams. I want them to know Jesus and to walk with him in the good times and depend on him in the bad.
There is so much I want for my kids and I am sure that list is nowhere near conclusive.
One thing that I have learnt as a parent is that what we do today affects tomorrow. What we do today (good or bad) sets the framework, the foundation for how things will happen tomorrow – or in the future. The things we do today with my young kids will affect their teenage years. The things I do today with my teenagers will affect their young adult years. Of course God is always ready to restore the broken so when we mess up, when we miss something, God’s grace is far bigger and always available – so this isn’t a deal breaker – but it is responsible parenting, and it gives our children a head start so to speak.
So when I start thinking of my kids getting married I have to ask myself – have I prepared them? I ask myself, what am I doing today, that will prepare them for a great marriage one day in the future?
Have I taught them:
- To be a good friend. If you can be a good friend, then it is likely you can be a good spouse.
- To know who they are – to know their beliefs and values. To be established in their character. To know their gifts and talents and passions. We do change and grow as people so we can’t see this as complete – but our children do need to see themselves as a person with unique aspects.
- To be responsible with money and possessions, and to work hard. To have the life skills to manage a home, to look after income and expenditures, accidents and incidentals in life. Our teens and adult children need to be able to do these things before they even think of getting married.
- To love other people, to be hospitable, caring and giving. We need to be first hospitable to our spouse – and then from that flows a hospitality and caring for others that enhances marriage.
- To serve, help, and be available to others.
- To keep their sexuality to be celebrated in marriage.
- To understand what love really is. The world sees love as an emotion – God’s word sees love as a decision, a commitment, and an action.
- To be honest with their feelings. We need to be able to assess and communicate when we have negative feelings. We don’t need to lash out, but we can process when we get sad or angry or frustrated.
- To communicate through conflict, to come to resolution and work towards healing?
- To forgive.
- To have a heart for family as opposed to an independent spirit.
There are so many relational issues that come to the fore within a marriage that this list could keep on going – but they are the things that come to my mind immediately. If you think of something else, please do leave me a comment.
When I reflect on those skills each one can be practiced in the home, in the family, and with friends – before anyone even thinks of getting married. These things are needed in any and every relationship.
I believe if we are teaching our children to respect and love other people they will be on their way to a healthy marriage relationship.
Of course living together presents different challenges. But as I talk to my friends, they all have different issues. What bothers one wife, another woman just chuckles over. What is a big issue to one, doesn’t even happen in another house. We are not able to prepare our children for their marriage completely. Even with the best preparation (whatever that may be) there will still be surprises. This is because our children will be marrying another person. I don’t know who that person is going to be – I don’t know their quirks, their passions, their circumstances. I don’t know how to prepare my child to marry them.
But I can prepare them for marriage; because marriage is a relationship and I can prepare my children for relationships.
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