We are more likely to teach our children about sex - especially the morality of it - that we often forget the much more important lesson in Adult Love, namely teaching them how to be in a loving adult relationship.
Whilst it is accurate to say (based on numerous scientific research) that children model their childhood home environment in their adult lives, they are also bombarded with media ideals and mixed messages from the external world.
By and large, we get by. We learn from our experiences as we go through life (perhaps that is why first loves and teenage affairs are often such dramas). We make mistakes in our early relationships, break hearts, get ours broken, and move on to the next one. That is how life goes in the modern world.
The caveat is of course if we do not learn and we end up in the same 'wrong movie' scenario of destructive, temporary relationships: those we love have such powers to damage us, and having been hurt, we go on damaging others, lost in the mire.
I am a strong believer in teaching children how to be someone's spouse and parent. These are my six tenets:
When you choose to be with someone, give yourself fully. Burn all your bridges behind you so that you can focus all your energy into your joint future.
Give children a safe childhood home that they can always come home to so that they are not afraid to be fearless.
This is not about material things, but the giving of something most precious: yourself. Do not be stingy with your love, your caresses and your kisses. Intimacy - physical and emotional - is the lifeblood of a lifelong relationship.
Be generous with your affections with your children.
Focus inwards instead of running away/looking elsewhere
Being strong in times of adversity (or boredom) is the key to Forever-Love. Life cannot be on a high all the time, and having the strength to keep going is so important. As I often write: love is not an emotion, it is a construction.
Teach children to stick to something instead of giving up easily.
Respect yourself and respect your spouse
Respecting your spouse means that your loyalty lies with him/her, rather than outside forces, including families and friends. This is because outside forces can be destructive to a relationship (for instance, a twisted aunt or poisonous cousin), and often, in the name of your best interest, actually cause more harm to an otherwise good relationship. Bear in mind always that if somebody is prepared to give his/her life to merge with yours, he/she deserves your loyalty at the very least.
Teach children that loyalty starts in the home and never talk bad about people.
Never destabilise the home
A home should always be a safe place for both parties in a relationship and their children. It is a construction and an expression of lifelong love. It is also a source of comfort and joy. If you destroy it, what do you have left? Careers and high octane sex does not last a lifetime, but a stable home does.
Teach children to value the home and the people who live within it above all.
Think in terms of 'us' instead of I, me, mine
We are taught to be independent and self-sufficient. They both are good traits to have, but they must never obscure us to opening ourselves up to love. Life is so much more beautiful if we have someone we can truly share it with. 1 + 1 = ∞
Build close relationships in the first family so that it becomes normal for a child in his/her adult years to be sensitive to others.
As parents, even in this modern day and age, we dream that our children will grow up to have families of their own and living happily ever after within this nurturing framework. This natural wish is corroborated by well-known, long-term research by Harvard University and other credible institutions showing that they key to a happy life is having a good spouse.
Teaching our children about Adult-Love is our contribution as parents towards creating a pool of good spouses who will bring love, light and kindness to the lives of others. For if we don't, who will raise our children's good spouses?
You are never alone in your dark hours if you have someone decent and true to share your life with. Cherish that person who ends your solitary confinement. Love him / her to your best ability <3>3>
This article and drawing are dedicated to Anneke, who died 36 years ago when her son was eight years old.
First published in www.raisinghappystrongkids.com