Summer is almost over in many places. You probably have a lot of kids getting excited about the new school year.
You are going to see kids wearing some of their new clothes to church. You might see some of them experimenting with a new backpack or notebook. You’ll hear talk of who gets what teacher and how excited they are or how disappointed they are that their best friend is not in their class this year.
- Excitement abounds!
- Curiosity flourishes!
- Sadness prevails!
Wait ……. what? Sadness prevails?
If you look carefully you might find children who are sad or something appears to be wrong. You will have to look for them though, because many will be trying to hide their sadness and or loneliness.
These are children of divorce. While everyone is excited about the up and coming school year, the child of divorce may be grieving having to leave the other parent. This is the child that traveled across country for the summer to live with their other parent.
- They got to know the routine and schedule there.
- They got reacquainted with cousins.
- They got to see grandparents and other extended family.
- They got close to their stepsiblings or half sibling and now they have had to say goodbye.
- They created home with the other parent.
Now they are back and while many are exited to be back with this parent, there are lingering thoughts about what they left behind.
Ever been out of town on a vacation for a couple of weeks? When you came back to work, everything seemed a little weird at first. Life went on without you. People got things done without you.
This is similar to what the child of divorce feels except many times worse. Not only have they left the other parent, they have been pulled out of the other parent’s life.
For some children, their behavior will be over the top. They may be disruptive, hyper or whirlwinds storming through your newly decorated areas.
What can a Kidmin person do to help?
Make sure you set up consistent routines immediately.
- Routines allow a child to know in advance what is going to happen.
- Routines help children feel safe.
- There is security in routines.
Educate your volunteers to the importance of routines and schedules.
- Help volunteers/leaders post the class schedule for everyone to see.
- For the ADHD child or hyper kids, give them their own small pocket size and laminated schedule. Have them return it at the end of class.
- Stick to the schedule as much as possible the first few weeks.
Try to make the re-entry back into church comfortable for kids who have been gone most of the summer.
- Send them a note in advance letting them know you remember them and who they are.
- Tell them you can’t wait to hear about their summer. (It’s okay to talk to them about the other parent.)
- Have someone personally welcome the child of divorce who has been gone most of the summer.
- Show them things that have changed or point out new decorations or how some furniture has been moved around. Give them permission to check things out themselves. I’ve had kids go around a room and literally touch things just to make sure things were still where they left them.
Some of these ideas may sound strange to you but try to remember these kids have lived away from the custodial parent. They have lived with their other parent whom they still love. Now they are trying to reintegrate back into their old life.
What have you done to help children of divorce start a new school year?