12/14/2010 10:23 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Being the "What" We Want Our Children to Be

Divorce seems to have reached epidemic proportions. Statistics tell us that the divorce rate is actually lower than it has been in recent years, but if you're like me, it seems like the rate is increasing. I look around my neighborhood, my circle of friends, my kid's sports teams, and it's hard to miss finding someone who is in the midst of a separation or divorce. I'm truly frightened about the impact this is having on our children. I wonder if they are being 'harmed' seeing their parents' divorce and being shuttled between two homes.

I love quotes and recently found this one: "What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become." - Anonymous

If you believe in this concept, then you know the importance of being a good role model for your children, and thus creates my conundrum.

So many of the men and women I speak with who are in loveless, lifeless marriages tell me that they are staying together 'for the sake of the kids.' I get that. But I also wonder if the 'harm' of seeing that kind of relationship, devoid of respect, laughter, true love and commitment, is more harmful to these children.

Case in point. I met a woman at a conference a few weeks ago. She confided that she was miserable in her marriage and was in fact 'hanging on by a thread' and had 'totally checked out.' The only reason she hadn't left yet was 'because of the kids.' There was no love in her marriage. No partnership.

Another woman I met through a mutual friend confided that she wanted to leave her husband who was verbally and emotionally abusive. He also had numerous affairs. She wouldn't leave him because she worried about the impact it would have on her children.

I asked each of these women, "Are you better off staying in your marriage and role-modeling everything that a marriage shouldn't be, or role-modeling that you are a strong woman who won't settle for living in a marriage that isn't real or settle for being treated inappropriately?"

I believe the opportunity to role-model a strong marriage, a strong partnership, the strength that comes from not putting up with behavior that isn't right, is a much stronger message to send to our kids. Our kids learn so much from watching their parents. Behavior is learned, right? I am so pleased that after my divorce my children now have the opportunity to see both their mother and their father in new marriages that truly do role-model love and commitment. I have stopped worrying about the 'harm' that may come their way because their mom and dad got divorced, and started focusing on the 'benefit' they are receiving from being able to observe a real marriage based on love, respect, laughter and partnership.

The bottom line is that divorce is tough on kids. Is observing a loveless marriage just as tough? Remember, if we are to be what we want our children to become, then we must be the role models they deserve to observe and emulate. It's an interesting conundrum. What do you think?