Weddings and anniversaries are great opportunities to teach children about marriage, commitment, and the many ways a family can be defined. More than anything, children want to “belong.” Often, a child’s first sense of belonging is in a family. “Belonging” has an individual responsibility to honor the collective connection in a marriage, family or team – it’s not one-sided.
Many traditional families (not all) start like the childhood playground song says:
“’Jonny’ and ‘Sally’ sitting in a tree,
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage!”
It’s a simplistic, easy-to-understand song about the beginnings of a family.
If appropriate, take your children to weddings and explain what getting married is all about. Explain in simple terms that two people fell in love and decided to make a commitment to start their family. The celebration acknowledges the agreement the couple has decided to commit to in working together as a team. The team can stay as just two people or grow in a variety of ways and there are many different ways a family can be represented whether it’s a couple, mommy and daddy, two daddies, two mommies, blended families, etc.
If positioned as a team, it is easy to show how teams work together and stick together. It also allows grown-ups to designate roles that the kids have an important role to play in a family unit to be part of the team. The grown up’s are in charge and the kids honor the family rules. I believe a parent’s primary role is to love, protect, and teach children. It’s a child’s job to listen and learn. When role clarity is achieved and maintained, everyone has more fun!
Another idea to consider is renewing your own vows and having your children participate. When my husband and I were celebrating our ten-year anniversary we decided to renew our vows and include our children in small ceremony. We didn’t have guests or have a formalized celebration. We somehow managed to wrestle four young boys in tuxes we donned our wedding garb. Forget the long make up and hair session! It was a simple ceremony that was choreographed at the last minute on the lawn of our original wedding site.
The boys felt so important being their daddy’s “best men.” They also felt proud to participate as a team in celebrating our family. I can only hope that having them hear our renewed commitment and appreciation for each other has a profound impact on their psyche and helps them make great choices when making a big decision like a life partner. Hopefully, this interaction helps them understand marriage isn’t always romance and flowers, it’s a commitment to working together as a team, which is work but certainly a lot of fun!