As Marriage Fades, Who Cares About the Kids?

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“From whom do we first learn about love?”

I asked every student in my high school theology classes the same question. There is always a hand or two from the guessers in the classroom. I would call on one of them, knowing their answer.


Nice try. It’s the standard guess to answer your religion teacher with “God,” “Jesus,” or “love.” Maybe you will at least get partial credit.

But, in this case, the correct answer is Mom and Dad.

From there, the lecture begins … the importance of family for every person … the essential nature of marriage:  a love committed to last “through good times and bad” … 

It is here that faces tense, and eyes look downward. While my lectures can invoke comatose reactions, this body language is because of the subject matter.

How do you tell teen-agers the value of marriage, when nearly half are the products of divorce, or never knew their father?

The answer is that you tell them anyway.

Marriages are based on solemn vows of love, which are the bedrock of families.

But when you extol marriage as a lifelong endeavor, you come across as a damning judge of those parents of broken families – no matter how many disclaimers you issue about not judging.

The alternative is not to say anything, ignore the truth, so feelings are not hurt.

But, please, people are already hurting. In her book Primal Loss, The Now-Adult Children of Divorce Speak, Leila Miller edits stories of 70 adults, explaining their childhood experience when their parents divorced.

“All but one or two wanted to be anonymous,” Miller said in a recent interview. “They didn’t want anyone to know they have pain. They didn’t want their parents to know.

“The saddest part was how silenced they were. You either go along with the narrative or be silent.”

The narrative, of course, is that kids are resilient. They’ll be fine. Divorce is normal. It happens.

The troubling part is it happens so frequently, beyond the cases of abuse or overwhelming dysfunction, but as an accepted possibility … the “we just grew apart” syndrome.

And because marriage is not valued, others don’t even see the point of matrimony.

But they continue to have children.

According to a recent report from the Institute of Family Studies, only 50 percent of children are being raised by the married birth mother and biological father.

The effects of broken homes on children – or the absence of fathers – has been written about here (and here).

A report in the Catholic Medical Journal (and published by the National Center of Biotechnology Information) shows what’s clearly best for children:

“Nearly three decades of research evaluating the impact of family structure on the health and well-being of children demonstrates that children living with their married, biological parents consistently have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being.

“Pediatricians and society should promote the family structure that has the best chance of producing healthy children. The best scientific literature to date suggests that, with the exception of parents faced with unresolvable marital violence, children fare better when parents work at maintaining the marriage.

“Consequently, society should make every effort to support healthy marriages and to discourage married couples from divorcing.”

But that does not happen enough. When parents – the supposed first teachers of love to their children – don’t demonstrate a commitment to their love, what is the foundation of family life, and of the children?

When I reviewed the book The Benedict Option, I was struck by a professor who worried about his students and “whether or not they will ever be able to sustain a family. Most of them have never seen what a traditional family looks like.”

This column represents an anniversary of sorts, since I began writing for New Boston Post one year ago. That first column celebrated monogamy – reacting to a celebrity who said it was “not a natural thing” – as I was celebrating my 30th wedding anniversary. I’ll close with my words from a year ago:

“Marriage is responsibility. It is effort. Marriage brings more meaning, bliss, and joy imaginable to life, because it is natural.”


Kevin Thomas is a writer and former teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.