As I mentioned it Conversation #4, it’s up to parents to change the attitudes about marriage and motherhood. Enjoy the additional tips below on how we can convey a positive view of marriage and motherhood to our daughters across the various age ranges. If your daughter’s biological father is not living in the home, be sure to check out the post below this one for some helpful tips on how to address the situation. Note: some tips may be contained in the book, but absent from the Bible study workbook.
If your daughter is 5 years or less:
Allow her to dream about marriage and motherhood and playact the part. I also used to tell my daughter while she was taking care of her dolls, “You are going to be the best mom someday!” Be careful about grumbling and complaining in her hearing when it comes to frustrations in marriage or parenting. Little ones are very perceptive and often assume they are to blame. Studies have even found that tiny infants are very tuned into their mother’s facial expressions and often respond to facial expressions that convey anger or sadness.
If your child is affected by divorce either directly or by a close family member, consider talking to a counselor to find out how best to explain the transition. If you tell a child that the couple “doesn’t love each other anymore,” they may assume that it’s possible for you to stop loving them.
When you spend time with your child, remind them of what a blessing she is in your life. When my children were young, I used to tell them outright, “I love being a mommy and I’m so glad God picked me to be your mom!” For extra credit, sit down with her and flip through your wedding album. Tell her how you and her daddy met and how exciting it is to be married.
If your daughter is 6-11 years:
As I mentioned above, be very careful about the signals you are giving regarding frustrations you may encounter in marriage and motherhood. Children in this age range are concrete thinkers and often interpret statements literally. For example, when my daughter was 7 years old, I got a speeding ticket on the way to gymnastics class. When the officer asked for my license and returned to his squad car to write up the ticket, I said, “Uh oh–Daddy’s going to kill me.” My daughter instantly burst into tears and said, “Mommy, I don’t want daddy to kill you!” We laugh about the story now, but she sure wasn’t laughing then.
Be very careful about exposing your children to family members who live together and refuse to allow unmarried couples to sleep together under your roof. If your child becomes aware of a situation where family members are living together outside of marriage, explain that this is wrong in the eyes of God. Of course, caution them against saying anything to the family member in question! It is inevitable that a child in this age range will be exposed to some degree to divorce. Whether it’s a friend at school, a family member, a church member, or yourself, it’s better to discuss the matter rather than ignore it and allow them to draw conclusions on their own.
Express to your daughter the blessing of marriage. While you don’t want to go overboard and paint a fairy tale picture that unrealistically implies that a man will make her happy, you also don’t want to leave her with the impression that marriage is nothing more than a source of pain and frustration. If you and your husband have a disagreement in the sight or hearing of your daughter (it’s bound to happen), talk about it with her and address her fears. To this day, I can still remember being in this age range and hearing my parents (on rare occasions) raising their voices at one another in the next room while I was in bed. I recall one time when my mother actually left the house and drove away. I honestly wondered if she was ever coming back and decades later can recall the fear and sadness I felt at the time as a small child. Of course, she did return, but every time after that when they raised their voices, I feared she would leave again.
At the upper end of this age range, it would be appropriate to begin discussions about the difficulty of balancing a career, marriage, and motherhood. It’s a bit over her head to discuss the dangers of delayed marriage and the risk of infertility, but at the very least, respond on a basic level to media messages your daughter may be exposed to that imply that a woman can “have it all.” As I mentioned in the tips above, sit down with your daughter and flip through your wedding album together. Talk about how you and her dad met and what you were feeling on the big day. Weave into the conversation a reminder of God’s purpose for marriage. You might also set aside a time to go through her baby album and flash back on her birth. Again, weave into the conversation what a blessing it was to become a mother.
If your daughter is 12 years or older:
Everything discussed in Conversation 4 is fair game. Don’t dump all the facts on her at one time, but rather spread them over several conversations. She is at the age now where she is developing critical thinking skills and can evaluate the pros and cons of certain life choices with some assistance. Certainly, take advantage of breaking down media messages that speak of marriage or motherhood in a negative manner or imply that women “can have it all.” If she is in high school, consider setting aside some time each week to formally address the points discussed in Conversation #4. She should be well-versed in the facts discussed in this conversation by the time she leaves the nest. She is at the age where she will be exposed on some level to hooking up, living together, divorce, as well as various attitudes about marriage and motherhood. Help her process the messages along the way and most importantly, make sure she is aware of God’s purpose for marriage and motherhood.
Now, it’s your turn! What spoke to your heart in this conversation? Do you have some wisdom or insight to offer our readers? If so, please include your daughter’s age when you post your comment.