The marriage ought to come first. That doesn't mean that you ignore the children. But it does mean that if you want what is best for your children, you will keep the marriage strong.
As a pastor of a Church, I counsel many marriages and many problem children. What I have discovered is that many or rather most of a child's problems are directly related to the problems within the marriage of his or her parents. Give me a troubled marriage and I will invariably find troubled children.
That is a fact that is indisputable from my experience of over a decade of counseling and trying to patch relationships back together. It has never failed that when a child is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder that I can find a chaotic, or angry, or dysfunctional marriage or home life where that child lives. Yes, I do think there is a direct correlation.
That being said, a strong marriage, a strong relationship between the husband and the wife provides the stability and security so that a child develops well mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Take away that stability or that security, and the child develops all sorts of chronic problems that range from the emotional to the physical.
If you give more attention to your children than you do to your spouse, the tension and anxiety that is created bleeds over into the emotional range of your children. They not only pick up on it, but they react to it in adverse ways.
So if you really love your children, work on having a strong and flourishing marriage.
All growing up, I never heard my parents argue one time. They always found time to do things together. They would often put each other first over my brother and me. It absolutely did neither of us a bit of harm. I never worried about mom and dad. I never faced the anxiety and insecurity of mom and dad fighting or yelling. I went on to be a pastor, my brother a missionary in China and both of us are well married with happy children at home. We both learned from mom and dad.
The moment that children take precedent in your lives over the marriage, is the moment that you bring insecurity into the lives of your children. They may enjoy your attention, but they absorb the anxiety and anger from the problems you are creating in your marriage. It's just not worth it. Children need their parents to have a strong relationship.
Without a doubt, the happiest children I've dealt with also have parents who have a good marriage
99 times out of a 100, I can trace a child's issues to their parent's marriage issues too.
Greg S. Baker is a Pastor, Counselor, and Author specializing in building and strengthening relationships.
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