The following article is reprinted with permission by its author Dr. Rob Lees, a licensed psychologist in Chilliwack, British Columbia and clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. It was excerpted from his book Prepared Companions: The Communication Manual for Loving Relationships. If you want an easy-to-read book with a wealth of ideas on relationship issues, Dr. Lee's book can be ordered by calling (425)432-3231 or ordering from the web site


Parents often forget that the love and respect they have for each other can have a profound impact on the lives of their children. Recently, while giving a marriage enrichment weekend, a man told me the following story. The story emerged after I had been mentioning that many couples, who have difficulty sharing their feelings face-to-face, do so by writing letters to each other. Many people find that on paper they can get past their persona, and write about their real feelings. This man's father had died, followed years later by his mother. While the family was going through their mother's personal belongings after her death, they found a cache of personal letters, which the man's father had written to their mother. The father had worked away from home frequently. Instead of phoning he would write his wife. She saved the letters to her dying day. The sons and daughters, finding this cache of memories, took the opportunity to read through them. They found them full of tender words that expressed the deep feelings their father had for their mother. The man said, "This was a side of Dad we had never known." I asked this man to share this story with other people on the enrichment weekend. When he did so, his voice filled with emotion, as if he might cry at any moment. Through these old letters he had come to know something about his dad.


His tears were tears of joy and a sense of fulfillment, knowing of the love that his father had for his mother. His story seemed to be moving to the whole group. I made the point that it is very healing for children to know that their parents care for each other. Most healthy parents want the best for their children. Parents often forget that children usually want the best for their parents. They want to know that their father treats their mother with kindness and respect and vice versa. So much of a child's self-esteem rests on this relationship. Often, children of dysfunctional parents make efforts at what appears to be rescuing their parents. The theory is that they want to make sure their parent is okay, so that the parent can then look after their child needs. Even in situations of divorce, I have found that, although children will often resist a stepparent out of loyalty to their nonpresent parent, they are usually appreciative of a new spouse if that new person seems to make Mom or Dad happy. Unfortunately, parents frequently fail to notice this unsolicited caring and see only the resistance. This story is a lesson to all married couples with children. Even those who are divorced need to realize that the cooperation, respect, and regard they give their ex will have an impact on the lives of their children.




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