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Single. Married. Separated. Widower. It’s complicated. What do you tell your children your status is? There is nothing more confusing than a relationship status. In the old days, if you were together you were in a relationship. Today, there is this bizarre refusal to define a couple as a couple.
Lee says: What do you think kids are learning about relationships? One of the more pronounced teachings a child is learning is the reluctance to define what a couple is. With the use of euphemisms like ’it’s complicated’ as a relationship status, kids are getting the idea that committing to a label is tantamount to a marriage. If it’s complicated for you, can you imagine what your kid thinks?
Far be it from me to shame you into defining your relationships but here I go! We know that kids see the world in a certain way. Developmental theories tell us that kids under the age of 11 kids are concrete thinkers. We also know that empathy is not fully developed in a person until they are in their 20s! So, when we tell an 8 year old that our relationship is complicated, that just does not compute. Are you together or not? ‘Maybe’ does not hold any meaning for a child who can only define the world in black and white. Grey is limbo and, since we are talking about the stability of a home, scary.
Being a parent does not come with added maturity or even common sense. However, being a parent should force us to grow up a little. Being a parent should force us to put ourselves out there and make declarative sentences and not operate a relationship like two teenagers on Teen Mom. Instead, what we do is show our children that relationships are as permeable as boundaries. Instead of being the adults in the family, we revert back to this angst ridden dance of silliness we call relationship.
A kid is simple, corral them and let them run wild and explore. We round them up with rules and parameters, make their environment as safe as possible and let them live their lives. As parents, we need to also remember that we are being watched. We know that kids tend to mimic their parents’ relationships. We know that kids love the way we love. We know that kids who come from intact families where the parents demonstrate love towards each other tend to choose partners that value family, affection and love. There are some who break the cycle of dysfunction but that takes an insight and willingness to change that most people avoid.
Kids are watching us. They see movies and think, ‘ah, that’s how we do it’. They listen to songs and think, ‘ah, that’s how we do it’. Now please do not assume that I condone censoring films or music. That is our job as parents. However, I do advocate that you, as Mom or Dad, get your act together. I do ask that you, as Mommy and Daddy, make the effort and get your neuroses regarding love under control. I do respectfully request that you show your child healthy love and be open and vulnerable. If you want your kid to be happy in life, show them how to love in a healthy manner. At the very least, do not ever click ‘it’s complicated’ as your relationship status.
Paul says: Do we really have to remind parents that the kids are watching? Every time that I kiss Lee, there is a kid watching. If I try to get frisky, there is a kid watching. If I think a sexy thought or have a lascivious grin, there is a kid watching. Government clerks in red China do not have as many eyes on them as I do. So how can you not know that the kids are watching and learning and mimicking? They are like little pod people out of Evasion of the Body Snatchers, except now they have Facebook and Twitter to help them in their quest to take over your life. Damn, children are scary.