My children will often quote back to me “the best gift you can give your children is a strong and healthy marriage” when I tell them that Keith and I need time together. They might roll their eyes a little, but deep down, I suspect they know that one of the best things that we have given them is the strength of our marriage. And it hasn’t always been easy. This December we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary.
Marriage is a relationship that can be filled with joy and happiness one minute and then not the next – there can be hurt, disappointment, anger and the stuff of life that we simply need to deal with. When this is ignored or avoided, it will trickle out in surprising and unexpected ways and guess what? It is our children who notice and watch and it impacts them profoundly.
I was excited to read Patrick Parkinson’s report For Kid’s Sake that was released this week. You can read this article written by him in the Sydney Morning Herald: Marriage the heart of a crucial commitment to children (8 September 2011). Chapter 6 of Parkinson’s report focuses on strengthening family relationships. One of his key recommendations is the development of education programs for parents that help them build strong marriages and with parenting.
Two weeks ago Keith and I ran a day seminar for “prospective parents” called Bringing Baby Home. We had twenty couples, most of whom will have a baby in the next three months. The course covered the marriage relationship and developing parenting skills. All the couples had attended an earlier course we had run on marriage, so some of the material was not new to them. The course included input from us and then “couple time”. They were our guinea pig group and I am sure there is much that can be tweaked. How I wish there had been such a course when we were expecting our first child twenty three years ago.
We based our day on John Gottman’s program which his research institute has developed. We attended training last year to run the course. However, it is very American. The foundations of the course are not from the Bible, but from extensive research of couples over years and years. However, there is much that is wise and good in the program that is enormously helpful, practical and sensible.
Gottman’s research indicates that couples who attend such a workshop one year after participating , have less “relationship meltdown”, “higher relationship quality”, less interpersonal hostility” and markedly less incidence of postpartum depression (22.5% compared to 66% in the control group). These are all good outcomes for our kids!
We would love to have the time and space to adapt his material and build it on biblical principles which is what we have done with our other marriage courses. We would also love to train up others who could use this material locally. I would value your prayers for this. As a Christian, I believe this is something good we can offer the community more broadly – strong healthy marriages will lead to strong and healthy families, which will lead to strong and vibrant churches which will lead to strong and healthy communities.