What’s up with families these days? Is it just me or does it seem that many American families are in real trouble?
According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census in 2009, there were approximately 2.2 million marriages, while there were about 1.1 million divorces.
These are not very encouraging statistics! Most of us know that around 50% of marriages end in divorce, but you might not know how that stat has been figured. The fact is that 40% of first marriages, 60% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. Almost 20 million Americans are currently divorced. The consequence to the well-being of our families is tragic.
Perhaps most alarming is that over 1 million children are directly impacted by divorce each year. Today, blended families (or step-families) are the most common type of family configuration in our country. Around 2,100 new blended families are formed every day in America. And, sadly enough, greater than seventy percent of remarriages involving children dissolve within 5 ½ years. You see, the problem is that most families don’t blend; they collide!
In the beginning, God created families with the purpose of providing such blessings as unconditional love, physical and emotional safety/security, as well as spiritual training and healthy discipline for children. Family is a place where individuals ought to feel like they belong, but often that is simply not the case.
Psalm 127:1 (ESV) states, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” Without God being woven into the fabric of our family-life, we’re destined for disaster as a society.
Researchers have been able to identify key characteristics present in healthy families that are typically missing from problem families. These include the following: connectedness, flexibility, social and economic resources, clarity, open emotional expression, positive outlook and spirituality. Couples who agree on spiritual beliefs report significantly higher marital satisfaction and couple closeness than couples that are low on spiritual agreement (Larson & Olson, 2004).
So what can we do to strengthen and enrich our families? First of all, adults, let’s get our act together in our marriages. Most marriages terminate due to selfishness on the part of one or both spouses. Somewhere along the way we have forgotten that, in God’s eyes, marriage is not just a human contract but a spiritual covenant. Jesus taught that “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).
It’s time we stop making excuses for our immature behavior and get our marriages back on track by placing God and His Word at the center of our relationships. Attend church regularly! Incorporate prayer and scripture into the fabric of your daily life as a couple and family.
Keep the courtship flame alive. Arrange for baby-sitting and take your spouse out for a date on a consistent basis. Start serving each other’s needs rather than seeking what you can get out of the marriage for yourselves. The greatest gift that parents can give their children (besides faith in God) is to love each other.
Next, moms and dads, put down your iPhones and iPads and pay attention to your kids. Play with your children. Institute a “Family Game Night” so everyone can interact and enjoy each other’s company. Children need and crave quality time with their parents, but it often seems that we are either too busy or distracted by electronics. Kids spell love T-I-M-E.
Sit down and have dinner around the table in the evenings without the TV blaring in the background. Talk to each other. Laugh together. Share stories about the day’s activities. Did you know that teens who regularly eat dinner with their families are less likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs?
When it comes to household tasks, instead of assigning everyone separate responsibilities, attack family chores together as a family. For instance, wash dishes, fold laundry, or rake the yard together. This shared interaction breeds a sense of unity and “togetherness.”
These are just a few practical ideas. Remember that God is passionate about your marriage and family. They are worth the effort!