In order to minister to children of divorce, we have to understand them. Unfortunately, many people who minister to children hold some common misperceptions about children of divorce and their families. They might not realize the extent to which these children are hurting. Or they might not be able to relate as some kids deal with sadness and depression as they try to hide their feelings or other kids who act out because they simply don’t understand what is happening in their families. The following are five misconceptions about children of divorce and their families people have shared with me:
1. “These kids are just acting up to get attention.”
My answer to this statement is simple,
“Yes they are, so give them the proper attention they need.”
Give them tender and loving attention. Many of these children haven’t experience tenderness from an important person in their life in a long time.
2. “’Those kids are just discipline problems. All they need is a firm hand!”
Many times “those kids” are not acting out, but they are merely reacting to the situation they are experiencing. They need boundaries and they need someone who can be supportive and encouraging to them.
Not all children of divorce are discipline problems. Some are sad and depressed. While others can hold it together at church and at school but fall apart at home or with the baby sitter or at childcare.
The stress of having two homes and two parents in different places can just be too much for some children.
3. “They should be over all that divorce stuff by now. It’s been a whole year for goodness sake.”
Two years is a drop in the bucket for most kids. Research by Judith Wallerstein (who the principal investigator of the 25 year Children of Divorce Project) says that it is not unusual for it to take ten years for children to process their parents’ divorce. Of course there are a lot of variables, but it does take children a long time to grieve the death of their once intact family.
If a child’s parent died, most people wouldn’t expect them to be completely over the parent’s death in a year but many people expect the child of divorce to move on quickly.
4. “So what, his parents’ are divorced. It is so common now, there’s no need to do anything special for that child.”
While most adults realize divorce or the break-up of cohabitating parents is “normal” in our world today, most children think their parents are the only one separating. Many kids can’t believe there are other children like them.
In a DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) group in NC I had twelve children of divorce in my group. One little second grade boy sent me a note saying,
“Ithought you said this was a class for kids who had divorced parents. How come I’m the only kid in here with divorced parents?”
He didn’t realize he was 1 out of 12 kids with divorced parents.
Kids of divorcing parents do need special attention.
5. “Those single parents need to get it together. Their kids are suffering and they don’t even know it.”
Many single parents are in the beginning stages of divorce and may be too overwhelmed to notice how much their children are hurting. Some are battling depression and trying to cope with the thought of parenting alone. While other single parents have been divorced for a couple of years or more and may still be struggling with high stress levels. Some may be aware their children are suffering but they are clueless about how to help them.
The church and the Lord’s people can negate these misconceptions by loving these children of divorce and praying for them and their parents. They can educate the people in the congregations about the struggles a child of divorce faces on a daily basis.