Approximately 50% of kids won’t live in an intact family as God designed it – won’t learn the lessons God intended that family to teach. [After looking at stats from lots of sources, the best data seems to suggest that 1 in 2 children will live in a single-parent home at some point in childhood. This post isn’t about debating that number; it’s about the fact that a number anywhere near 50% demonstrates a massive problem – and that problem affects a lot of children.]
Of the approximately 50% of children whose parents do not divorce, a much smaller percentage will have a functional intact family, and a far smaller percentage will actually be part of a healthy, happy family.
And children of divorce (and I am a part of this large population) can tell you all they want about how their parents’ divorce didn’t affect them because they were young when it happened or their parents were civil or everyone was happier this way. But the subtext of these statements is: I still haven’t processed this. I’ve never seen a positive example, so I don’t know what I’m missing. The lessons they’ve internalized to make this feel okay are: Love is an emotion, not an action. It’s okay to bail on a situation if it gets hard. These lessons are incredibly damaging – and are made more damaging by the fact that the kids don’t even recognize these lessons.
The new “normal” way to grow up is a travesty, and it’s eating an entire generation from the inside out.
Think about this: Of the adult couples a normal kid knows, how many have marriages that even manage to appear happy? How many marriages in this child’s world are shining examples of what God designed for marriage? Very few. Far more often, I hear kids talk about not wanting to get married because of how miserable marriage makes you or how your girlfriend will stop sleeping with you when she becomes your wife or how when you get married your attentive boyfriend will stop paying attention to you. These kids haven’t been married. They aren’t talking about their own experiences. They’re talking about the experiences they’ve seen in the marriages around them (and the marriages portrayed on TV and in movies).
Another caveat: We’re not taking the easy way out here: blaming the media. The media would have far less influence on our children if the terrible marriages they saw portrayed on TV were contradicted by what they saw in the marriages around them. But they aren’t. The terrible TV marriages confirm what the kids see in the world around them. Ultimately, we don’t have control over programming. We do have control over our own marriages.
Of course, most young people still do want to get married. The problem is actually sadder than that. Very often what I see in my students is, in a way, worse than not wanting to get married because of how awful all the marriages are around them. Instead what I see is a sense of resignation. The idea that they’ll “settle” like everyone around them has. His wife will nag, but she’ll cook and clean and sometimes the sex will be good. Her husband will be distant, but he’ll provide a comfortable enough living for the family of 4 she has her heart set on. The fact that young people have bought into the idea of settling in marriages should break our hearts. We, as the generation ahead of them, have been such a poor example that they don’t even realize there’s something more. Something much more amazing that God has in store for them.
Before the next post, think about the kids in your life (your own or just kids you’re close to): How many amazing marriages (marriages that don’t settle) do they see in the lives of the adults around them? How can you be a more visible example to the kids in your sphere of influence?
Read part three: (becoming) a role model, part three
Click here for part one: (becoming) a role model, part one
Want to read more?
Start of the fully submitted series: (becoming) fully submitted
Start of the wife series: (becoming) a godly wife
Start of the stewardship series: (becoming) a good steward
Start of the wisdom series: (becoming) wise, part one
Start of the Proverbs 6 series: (becoming) closer to God through Proverbs 6
Start of the Christmas series: (becoming) peaceful
Are you a worrier? Try this post: (becoming) less of a worrier
A note before I begin: These posts are directed at adults, not parents specifically. I often say “parents” and talk about “families” because that’s a primary place for young people to interact with adults. This is about far more than that, though. This is about adults stepping up for the next generation. For our own kids, for the kids in our extended families, and for the kids in our schools, communities, churches, and so on. For many kids, your God-centered marriage may be the only one they ever see. Many kids will never see that example from their parents – and even if they do, what kid couldn’t use a second example of a God-centered marriage to offset the hundreds of other negative examples he’ll see? So consider: How can your life and your marriage influence the next generation – whether your kids or others’?
In some important external ways our world is a lot safer than it used to be. There are safer plastics, safer foods, safer cars, vaccines, no mandatory draft. Even zip lines and parachuting can be done with little risk. But internally, I think things are far more dangerous.
The chemicals and addictions, the accidents and monsters that are killing us often aren’t outside — they’re inside us (even if we use external things in the process). We’re eating ourselves to death, or starving ourselves to death. Obesity and anorexia are inside problems with clear outside manifestations. And our self-indulgence and self-deprivation are hardly limited to food. Many of us are shells on the verge of collapse.
I can see this in the eyes of my students — the panic and despair. Even male students regularly come into my office on the verge of tears – overwhelmed with the prospect of an exam, an essay, or a presentation; his grandfather’s funeral that he can’t find a ride to; his porn addiction; his tenuous connection to 1, 506 facebook friends; a girlfriend he can’t communicate with because his dad has always been a yeller, and he knows he doesn’t want to go down that path, but he knows no other way to relate to a woman; the feeling that he never has time for any of this, even though if he looked at his days, he’d find something like this:
2 hours=fantasy football
2 hours=texting/talking on cell phone
1.5 hours=video games
2.5 hours=TV (while “doing” homework)
And when I think about one of these problems – his inability to communicate with his girlfriend, for instance – I think: What ever happened to reading about something if you don’t know how to do it (e.g., a book on communicating with the opposite sex). And then I’m shocked by the fact that my default is to seek out a book (self-help or textbook) — because, what happened before books?
I mean, for solving a problem, my instinct is a solitary solution. Not entirely for me, personally. I tend to talk to my husband and one or two close friends. However, my default advice would be to try to match a person with a problem with a written resource. This is partially because I know that if a young person comes to me about such things, then he probably doesn’t have (or doesn’t think he has) a support system to talk to. (You don’t usually pick your professor to confide in if you have a mom, dad, pastor, etc., whom you trust.) But I start to wonder: What did we do before the myriad of web pages and books we use to self-diagnose, self-treat, and self-delude?
We learned by example. And we learned through conversations with the generations that preceded us. And these are two areas (examples and conversations) so desperately absent in the lives of many teenagers and young adults today.
[One caveat here: You may provide a wonderful home full of support for your child. You may be doing a wonderful job. This post isn’t supposed to make you feel like you aren’t. In your case, it’s meant to point out that your child’s situation is an anomaly. Many of his friends won’t come from the same home situation — even if, at first, on the surface, they seem to.]
Sure, we have conversations with the younger generation. Kids are micromanaged like never before by constant messages on facebook and texts from parents. But they are often ignored in much bigger ways. Sure, you might text your college student each morning to make sure he gets to class on time, but consider the other messages you’re sending with this action: the message that you don’t trust him to meet that responsibility, the message that he doesn’t have to meet that responsibility because you’ll do it for him, the message that you care more about him getting up and getting to class on time than about what would actually cause a 20 year-old boy to not be able to do this on his own.
When kids are nagged, but not really known by the adults in their lives, it becomes difficult for them to respect these adults. And as we know, when kids don’t have adults in their lives that they respect, lots of things go wrong.
Until the next post, consider the kids in your sphere of influence: How do you interact with them? Is it only on a surface (texting, nagging) level, or is it also on a deeper (talking, knowing them — even the parts you wish weren’t true) level?
Want to read more?
Read part two: (becoming) a role model, part 2
Have trouble saying “no”? Check out last week’s post: (becoming) a good steward: the necessity of “no”
Struggle with nagging? You might be interested in: (becoming) a more godly wife: nagging=marriage sabotage
Want to go deeper in your walk with Christ? Click here for the start of the Fully Submitted Series: (becoming) fully submitted