Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Getting Away From Your Kids

Last weekend my wife and I took two nights to get away from the kids to enjoy our hometown of San Diego. Since we don't have family in town it is not always easy to pull off the logistics but when we are able to get our parents to fly down from Seattle we love to get away.

Getting away with your significant other is not only fun for you, it is an important piece of parenting your kids. Taking some time to get away from your kids while you enjoy vacation comes with the added benefit of teaching the following values to your kids:

1) How to treat women (for boys) or how to expect to be treated (for girls).

Our kids need to see how healthy relationships function. They need to see that healthy relationships require intentionality. They need to know that once kids are in the picture the relationship does not go "on hold" for the next twenty years. You may feel guilty or selfish for enjoying life for a weekend without your kids but you are actually not doing your offspring any favors by never leaving their side.  One 2011 study found that healthy relationships between parents directly correlated with healthy relationships between those parents and their kids.

Getting away and investing in your relationship with your wife teaches your boys that they will one day need to keep investing with their spouse. It teaches your girls that they should not settle for a guy who does not want to keep pursuing them. It is no surprise that the behaviors you display in marriage are often the behaviors your kids will repeat in their own marriages so feel free to model a marriage where you take time away from your kids to be with each other. (One day you will be grateful when your own kids ask you to hang out with your grandkids so that they can get a vacation). 

2) You teach your kids they are not the center of the Universe.
Most of the free time (I use the term free-time loosely) as a parent is spent helping kids with homework, watching/ coaching/ teaching recreational activities, helping out at school or church events, or other work related to raising kids. This involvement is important for the development of our kids but if we are not careful we may unintentionally teach our kids that they are the center of the universe.

Some parents actually believe their kids are the center of the universe but a day will come when they discover that this is not the truth. The sooner we help our kids learn that other people have needs, desires, and pleasures that may not directly benefit them the better off they will be.

When we take time to focus on our own relationships as parents, our kids learn that thinking of others is okay and not always getting what we want is okay. In a healthy situation your kids will know you love them and they will learn that loving them does not mean you never take time for yourself. When they learn the importance of allowing others to have needs fulfilled, they learn to be people who are able to naturally think of others and make sacrifices for the good of others. Parenting involves a lot of teaching perspective and getting away is a very practical way for your kids to learn perspective.

3) Extended Family is Important. 
Having your parents or siblings help out with your kids while you get away also helps your kids build relationships with the people who helped shape you. I understand that for some of you this is not possible or even desirable so in those cases your family might include long time friends. For us, we love when our kids get to be with their grandparents and they always like those experiences as well.

My parents dumped me off with the grandparents every summer and would send post cards from places like Hawaii and the Carribbean. I never felt angry or jealous that my parents were enjoying some travel while I enjoyed the beautiful mosquito and humidity infested summers of Minnesota because I was having fun with my cousins and other family members. Your kids will likely afford you the same freedom so go for it.

4) Marriage is fun.
There is no doubt that kids raised in homes with both of their biological parents tend to do better in school, engage in fewer destructive behaviors, become more successful in their careers, and in turn, have healthier marriages of their own and continue the cycle of raising healthy kids.

When we take time to get away with our spouses, we increase the joy we have in our own marriages and we provide happier, healthy environments for our children. They will see the benefits of loving marriages and will be more likely to believe in the institute of marriage and provide the same environment for our future grandchildren.

My wife and I love travel and we love food. When we get away we can do the things we love to do together thus strengthening our bond. Plus we have the added benefit of eating the food we like regardless of what our kids think (even though are kids are also foodies and usually like what we like) and the other added benefit of being able to afford dinner with three fewer mouths to feed.

If you have not taken a weekend or a week away from your kids in a while, look at your calendar and do your kids a favor by doing your marriage a favor. Find a way to get away and teach your kids these valuable lessons. You might also find some other very nice benefits of being in a hotel without wondering if your kids will walk in your room in the middle of the night. (That last one is for you and your spouse to figure out on your own). 

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