It’s obvious. Christmas is a hard time of year for children of divorce. Traditions are disrupted. Visitation disrupts their schedules.
What should you expect as you interact with one of these children in the context of your ministry?
Divorce or separation of parents is recent
If it is a child’s first Christmas after the separation or divorce of their parents, you should be prepared for a variety of feelings to be exhibited. Depending on how recent the divorce was, the child may appear to be in shock, or the child may be confused not sure of what their feelings are.
Parents have been divorced for quite some time
If it has been several months, and the child has begun to process the divorce, you may find some anger feelings emerging in your classes. If the child feels safe with you, then don’t be surprised if a lot of anger comes out. Some children will hold their anger in when they are around their parents. They don’t want to upset their already stressed and/or angry parents. But, when they get to a safe place and if you have developed a relationship with them, then they will let their guard down and express themselves.
One of the ways you can help these children, especially around Christmas when they are feeling even more stressed than normal, is to help them understand their anger. You can do this by helping them see what
- Anger looks like
- Anger sounds like
- Anger feels like
In DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K), we make a chart and the kids share their examples. Here are some of the answers of the children I worked with in one DC4K group.
ANGER LOOKS LIKE
- Crossed arms
- Furrowed eye brows
- Clenched teeth
- Fists balling
- Hands hitting
ANGER SOUNDS LIKE
- Fussing angrily
- Banging fist
- Saying, “I AM MAD!”
ANGER FEELS LIKE
- A tight stomach
- Energy in your hands and feet
I particularly find kids comments under “Anger Feels Like” interesting. They feel energy in their hands and feet? It feels “weird” or “hot?” Kids are perceptive when they have a chance to acknowledge things. When kids recognize what is happening in their bodies as a response to anger, they can then get control of it. Anger is no longer scary but logical. Things that are happening with them begin to make sense.
Christmas and anger
With Christmas coming up, help a child in your church pinpoint what anger looks like, sounds like and feels. You will be doing them a big favor when you can help them before Christmas Day. Hopefully they will be ready and able to really enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.
For children who are not struggling with a family breakup, Christmas is an exciting time of the year. Christmas may be a time when they can stay up late, they don’t have to go to school, there are visits with relatives (who often spoil them), not to mention presents and candy. As people who work with kids from all backgrounds, we want them to find the true meaning of Christmas. Most of you will go overboard trying to relay the story of the baby Jesus and his humble birth with special lessons and activities. There will be special Christmas musicals; special holiday parties or celebrations; perhaps even caroling events also.
We want ALL kids to come to church and enjoy the specialness of this time of year. If you are aware of what is happening in the life of a child of divorce, you are better equipped to make it a special time for him or her as well.
This Christmas season, what does anger look like, sound like and feel like for some of the children of divorce in your ministry?