Marriage and Parenting Self-Help Advice from an Expert

Written by Harville Hendrix

Marriage Expert and top-selling author Harville Hendrix gives us advice on helping our kids one day to have a successful marriage. It all starts with your marriage.

We all know that children are directly affected by the quality of their parents' marriage.

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But what is it about that marriage that helps kids become healthy adults and create a happy marriage of their own?

It's quite simple: children need an environment infused with reliable warmth, open communication and protection from injury.

So say developmental psychologists John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, who for 30 years studied children interacting with their parents both at home and in laboratory settings. Based on their studies, Bowlby and Ainsworth identified three basic types of children: "secure," "insecure," and "avoidant."

The secure children, who had reliable warmth and protection during the first two years of life, evolved through childhood with a positive self-image, confidence in themselves, a positive attitude toward the outside world and good relationships with others.

Follow-up studies found that the secure children learned well in school, made friends, had few illnesses, were liked by their teachers, expressed their feelings freely, knew how to get comfort when they needed it, and were involved in many activities.

The parents of these children all shared a common trait: they had good marriages. They expressed affection toward each other, solved problems well, showed respect for their children, and considered each other their "best friend."

These marriages were also distinguished by healthy communication between partners. Everything was open to discussion. The researchers concluded that parents who are not distracted by unexpressed anger, tension and distrust are available emotionally to their offspring.

Such relationships provide children with good role models that they can internalize and take with them into their adult lives.

However, most children are not so fortunate. Their parents, stressed by life circumstances as well as tensions in their relationship, and lacking good role models themselves, are less apt to provide reliable warmth and protection, or, as I call it, "consistent availability."
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