Everyone with a child wants to be a good parent. We love our children and want them to flourish. We want to protect them from harm and injury. So how do we do this?
Well, first, we all know how important it is to give our children time and attention –we need to play with our children. We also know that we need to set some boundaries – making sure they eat well and get enough sleep. Then, of course, we want to make sure our children get the best start in life – with a good education and good opportunities to develop their gifts and talents. Maybe, when they are older, we might even help them buy their first home.
But none of these things are as important as the one thing that matters more than anything else. Even more than your love for them. And that is the love that you share and show for your partner – for your other half – for your child’s other parent.
According to the Office for National Statistics, 48% of children growing up today will see the breakdown of their parents’ relationship. And these breakdowns do cause our children stress, suffering and grief.
So the best thing you can do for your children is to pay attention to your spouse or your partner and prioritise this relationship above all else – even above your relationships with your children.
But how do you do this?
Well, here are three simple tips:
Have a look at the marriage vows – whether you are married or not. In a marriage ceremony, we vow to ‘have and to hold - for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish – until death us do part.’ If we keep these vows - then it’s likely our relationship will endure. If we break these vows - then it’s likely that we will not only drift apart but also something really damaging like an affair is just waiting to happen.
Make time for your relationship. Have regular ‘Date Nights’ – without the children! Put these in your diary and don’t let anything else override them. Then, get out of the house for supper or a drink together regularly, say every Thursday night. Don’t wait until that horrible moment when ‘you really need to talk.’
Say NO to temptation. None of us can go through marriage or a long term relationship without occasionally looking at someone else – maybe a colleague at work – and fantasising about what life would be like if we were only in a different relationship. Don’t do this. In fact, keep well away from anyone you are tempted to flirt with. What may seem initially a harmless fling has all the power to wreck havoc in your life, causing irreparable injury to your partner, yourself – and your children. Christians, as you probably know, are people who follow Jesus Christ and want to grow in his likeness and the Bible says this will make us more loving, joyful, compassionate and courageous. But it also says – and sometimes we forget or ignore this bit – that it will make us more self disciplined. Self discipline is not probably top of your list of desired traits. But it is actually a much overlooked and underrated blessing. Something we admire in work, diet and physical fitness – so why not be more self-disciplined in your emotional and sex life too?
If, however, your relationship has sadly already broken down, please don’t despair. We cannot protect our children from all injury and hurt in life and children, especially when deeply loved and cared for, are very resilient. But, nonetheless, probably still the best thing we can do in these circumstances is to be as kind as we possibly can be to our ex partners.
Whatever the background of the breakup, no matter how hurt and betrayed you feel – if you have children, then you can never be entirely released from the relationship with your child’s other parent. You still have to communicate with them. And your child still loves them. Although there may be no hope or desire to get back together, it does make a big difference to your child, if you can find the strength and courage to always be kind to your ex and make this relationship the highest priority.
Children are a huge blessing. But let’s remember where that blessing came from. It came from a loving relationship with your partner. Care for that relationship – no matter how bruised and broken it may currently be – and you will be doing the best thing ever for the children you love so much.