There are few things Jim Burns enjoys more than kissing his wife, Cathy. Especially in front of their kids.
When his kids were younger, their typical response: "Yuck!"
"But," says Jim, "our youngest would say 'yuck' with a smile, because she saw me affirming her mother. We need to kiss in front of our kids."
Having worked with teenagers and their parents for more than three decades, Jim has seen the effect marriages have on children. He knows what works and what doesn't. So he has plenty of ideas about what kinds of marriages produce young people who develop into healthy adults with their spiritual lives intact.
You've met a lot of kids over the years. Think of the kids who turned out well. What are the characteristics of their parents' marriages?
One is that the parents continue to court each other. It's great for kids to see Mom and Dad putting their relationship first. Most of the time the opposite happens: Parents make their kids such a priority that they don't have any time left for each other.
Part of courting is affirming each other. Even if it's just, "Thanks for a great meal!" Or, to a kid, "You know, I think your mom is the most beautiful woman in the world." One time I told the girls, "Okay, you guys do the dishes. Mom and I are going to sit on the couch." I put my arm around Cathy and we had a great talk.
I try to show Cathy love and respect. The byproduct is that my kids see their parents "date." Seeing their parents give each other time, affection, and respect make kids feel secure.1