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Helping Children of Divorce
by Cary Branscum

    Last week, my wife and I drove to Fort Worth, Texas to be with my brother and sister-in-law. They’ve just learned their 7 month old baby has cerebral palsy.  Life has tough moments when it’s really hard to see the blessings that will not appear until much later down the line.

    My wife and I have a special needs child of our own.  My sister-in-law looked at me, and said, “How do I think about living with this?”  Just having come from a three-hour drive up the Interstate, I replied, “Sometimes your life journey takes you on a side road, one you didn’t even know was there.  It may be slower, with more turns, but there is beauty in the journey that way too.”

    What does this have to do with helping kids deal with divorce?  Divorce is like a side road.  You didn’t plan on it.  You probably didn’t want it. Yet your car has run off the Interstate!  What now?   First of all, relax and know God will take charge, even on the side roads if we let him.  Second, this road will get you where you need to go if you will just hang on to your faith in him.  It’s true!  Your life journey will continue. There will be beauty in the journey.  It may hurt too much right now to see it but you can eventually find it.

    Now you say “Wait a minute!  What about my kids, they are on this side road too!”   How can I help my kids deal with the divorce?

  1. Find a qualified counselor to help them sort out their feelings—Christian psychologists, a minister, a good friend who can help them identify and own their feelings. As a parent, you can do this yourself if there is no other support for your kids, but it’s difficult do alone because you may need to sort out and own your own feelings too.  Find support groups, and get yourself and your kids to a church that has a ministry for single parents.

  2. Reassure them it is not their fault, on a regular basis.  Children often blame themselves for being too loud, too messy, not pretty enough and that’s why the family split up.  As crazy as that sounds, that’s the first thing that most children think:  “Mom and dad split up because I was bad!”

  3.    Divorce brings an avalanche of change.  Where will we live?  Where will we go to school?  What about my friends?  Let them know what to expect as best you can.  Their world has been ripped apart by unwanted surprise so try to soften the surprise of future upheaval.  You may not know what to expect, but be as specific as possible as soon as possible if there are going to be major changes—like moving or changing churches or changing schools.

  4.    Let them know they are loved.  Sometimes children feel they must choose which parent they want to be with, and when, and which one to love. Let them know they can still love both mommy and daddy. Let them know they will be taken care of, and then do the best you can.

  5.    Let them stay close to whatever helps them feel secure in a tough time.  Some children may regress to a safer time, and go back to their old favorite blanket for awhile.  Let them do that right now.

  6.   Realize these little guys and girls will help you get through this! Believe it or not, there are lots of well-adjusted people whose parents divorced.  Your kids can survive!  Things are bad and times are tough, but there can be beauty to see on your journey down the road.

    Children give us a reason to deal with a divorce.  They are worth it.  As you drive through the sludge of your legal, financial, and emotional problems, remember you’re not only doing it for God and for yourself, but for them.  They are precious, and worth everything, they are your heritage. May God be with you on your journey!

NOTE:  Here’s a  great resource for helping kids deal with family breakup: Kid’s Hope, a workbook by Gary Sprague, in the FRESH START series published by David C. Cook Publishers.


HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
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Article copyright © 1998, Cary Branscum. Used by permission.
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