By Anne Metz
How do we as parents model a good Catholic marriage for our children and why is that so important? The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children.” (CCC 2225). Our marriage not only shows our children what a happy, healthy relationship looks like, it also teaches them how to love well and how to be loved. By loving our spouses, we model God’s love for His people, and by receiving our spouse’s love, we model how to receive God’s love.
Prioritize Your Marriage
The best way to model a good marriage for your children is to have a good marriage. If you aren’t currently prioritizing the relationship with your spouse over the relationship with your children, it’s time to start. What that looks like will be different for each couple. First, sit down together and talk about what a really great marriage looks like, and then brainstorm ideas of how to get there.
Here are a few ideas to get you started with the practicalities of it all:
- Go on a Catholic Marriage Retreat like Marriage Encounter or Retrouvaille.
- Visit your priest or a Catholic therapist for marriage counseling.
- Make time to talk each day, even if it’s just for a little while.
- Do things you enjoy together, like going for a bike ride, cooking, or working on a house project together.
- Plan a weekly date night (even if that means eating ice cream and watching your favorite show on Netflix together after the kids go to bed).
Pray For Each Other and With Each Other
Pray for your spouse and your marriage every day. In addition to asking for blessings for your relationship, be sure to include prayers of gratitude for your spouse and all the wonderful things you love about them. Ask the saints, like Saint Priscilla, Saint Joseph, or Saint Monica, to intercede on your behalf.
Scripture tells us, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” (Matthew 18:20) So pray together, out loud, for your marriage. If praying together is new for you as a couple, it might feel uncomfortable, but I urge you to push yourself to try it anyway. Keep it simple in the beginning by praying a simple prayer like, “Lord, thank you for our marriage, please bless our relationship and help us to grow in love for one another.”
Let Them See You Fight...and Make Up
No marriage is perfect and even the great ones have disagreements from time to time. Don’t hide the fact that you and your spouse don’t always get along. Though most arguments should be out of earshot, sometimes it’s okay for the kids to see you disagree, assuming the subject matter is appropriate. You’ll be modeling how to disagree respectfully and how to resolve the problem.
Narrate Your Relationship
Just in case your kids can’t see all the things you do to keep your marriage a priority, narrate it for them. When your husband is running late and you’re helping him out by making his coffee for him, let your kids know by saying it out loud: “Daddy’s running late, so I am going to make his coffee to help him save time because I love him.”
Here are a few more examples of how to narrate your marriage:
- “Look, Daddy filled my tank with gas to show me he loves me! Isn’t he a wonderful husband?”
- “Mommy and I disagreed this morning, but we made sure to talk about the problem and we both apologized to each other.”
- “Dad takes such good care of me when I’m not feeling well.”
- “Today I’m going to buy Mommy her favorite flowers, just to show her how much I love her.”
- and my favorite: “Daddy and I are putting you to bed early tonight so we can spend some quality time together.”