Whenever I hear the words kitchen table, family comes to mind. As kids, we were required to be home at a certain time for dinner. Usually right before the street lights came on. That was the rule. We were never late, or else. So for me, family and kitchen table go hand in hand.
I think that is true for most Americans today, although the number seems to be on a downward trend. Every home environment is different. Some homes have a mom and dad, some are single-parent homes, and in some grandparents are the caregivers or at least help with caregiving. For me, that home environment is how I was raised, and how I raised my children. For many years, my parents lived with us in our home, and were a tremendous source of help to us, especially with childcare issues and our busy jobs. We were blessed. I know.
By the time our fourth child was born, we had outgrown our home and my mom wanted to have her own place. She moved nearby and continued to help with the kids. It was tough sometimes. Grandparents never think the grandchildren can do any wrong. They tend to be much more lenient with their grandchildren than they were with their own children. But again, it was a tremendous blessing to have them nearby and participating in my children’s lives, and my own life quite frankly.
In some families, there is some very unfortunate drama going on. Especially single family homes, or homes with step-parents. There are now homes where same-sex partners are raising children. Homes where there are addictions and abuse, homes where parents are too busy being adults and not busy enough being parents. All this is happening around the kitchen table. And we wonder what is going on with our society today, and why kids are so screwed up. I know that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, your kid struggles, emotionally, behaviorally, spiritually and scholastically. My gosh we have boys that think they are girls and girls that think they are boys, and we as parents don’t have a clue what to do.
There are many families who do not speak the English language (such as illegals or unassimilated immigrants), many of those kids do not have the benefit of any homework help and struggle as students, eventually even dropping out. These students are certainly less likely to pursue a post-high school education, as study after study shows. Many family homes today struggle financially as well. Parents are working long hours and children are either left at home alone or with someone caring for them (who may not be so caring). For many kids, school breakfast and lunches are probably the only meals they will eat for the day. We have domestic violence going on around our kitchen tables. There are currently situations no child should ever be exposed to, much less live in. And we wonder what is going on with our society today, and why kids are so screwed up.
I can tell you without any doubt that the marital atmosphere in the home has a huge impact on the formative years in a child’s life. When it comes to household bliss and stability, kids from healthy marriages do far better than their counterparts from single-parent families, high drama environments or mixed families in the home atmosphere.
Putting aside the single parent home for a moment. A two-parent home that has constant fighting and shouting or even physical violence will have lifelong repercussions on children. While some kids internalize the conflict, many act out in anger as a result of what they are witnessing with the adults at home. It is important to assess your relationship with each other and work towards conflict resolution immediately when there are children in the home, of any age. There are many state and local agencies that can help you find a resource for assistance with family matters that are beyond your control. Most health insurances carriers also have a mental health hotline that offers at least 3-4 telephone conferences with mental health specialists depending on the crisis. Please do not hesitate to get help for your family should you need it.
If you are separated or getting a divorce, the welfare of the children must come first. Court’s today need to look to parenting classes when couples with children file for divorce. Too many times the children are used as pawns and get caught up in the marital dispute of the parents. This is never a good scenario and if you are getting a divorce, you should ask your lawyer or the court to require parenting classes for both of you and counseling for the family as a whole in order to make the separation or divorce as amicable as possible for the sake of the child, and for you as well.
Kids that are caught up in these custody battles and hostile divorces are more likely to be depressed, to develop anti-social behaviors, act our in anger, turn to drugs or alcohol or model the violence they are being raised in, which later transfers into their own adult lives and relationships. We are turning out a mentally ill society by our very own actions. And we wonder what is going on with our society today, and why kids are so screwed up.
I get it, you and your spouse did not make it. I do not pretend to know everyone’s specific situation, and honestly, some marriages are just not salvageable. There may be infidelity issues, alcohol, drugs or sex addictions, financial issues, violence, in-law issues, career issues, disrespect, or you just plain out fell out of love with your spouse. Fine, but the kids have nothing to do with that, and they are probably the only good thing that came out of your relationship. The younger they are, the easier it is to deal with these issues. As kids get older and the realization of a split up hits home, things could escalate before you are able to grasp it and get help. When discussing separation or divorce, factor in the kids for goodness sake. Don’t let your own personal feelings for each other, spill into your kid’s lives. Easier said than done, I know.
We brought these kids into the world. Yes by choice, since there is obviously a choice these days. As we work to raise them to have better lives than maybe we did growing up, we should look to our kitchen table, and ask ourselves, exactly what is going on around it?