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Fourteen Things Children of Divorce Need to Know

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Young hiker overlooking valley, children of divorce

I’m a child of divorce. What about you? Overcoming the fallout of divorce is a process, isn’t it friend? 

You and I understand the child’s heart that can still live inside an adult body. 

Even when God has worked miracles of healing in us, feelings of rejection and worthlessness can still hang out in the corners of our soul. Even ordinary things can trigger deep emotion at the most unexpected times. 

This happened to me last weekend as we watched the movie, “The Judge.” 

In one scene, Robert Downey Junior’s character was driving down the road with his daughter. They were talking about his upcoming divorce from her mother. His sweet young daughter said, “It happened to Sara and it happened to Megan, but I never thought it would happen to me.”

That stirred my heart down deep. Did those words resonate in you?

Tears popped up as I thought of my childhood and all the children who live in a culture where divorce is rampant.

In my recent survey, I learned some things about you. You are compassionate. You enjoy helping others. 

Today, I want to call you to help children of divorce. There are many ways to do this, whether it’s a ministry in your church or the way you personally help children who cross your path. Maybe it will mean helping your own children while you’re parenting them.

Here’s my list of fourteen things children of divorce need to know.

Take note: I am not a licensed psychologist. I’m a survivor who has walked through the healing process.

From experience, I believe these things will comfort young hearts and help them find wholeness when their world falls apart.

  • It isn’t your fault.

Kids often blame themselves for the divorce. Make sure they understand there was nothing he or she could do – or not do – to prevent the divorce. 

  • You have value.

A child can feel a real lack of self-worth when parents divorce. They might believe that if they had more value, their parent would have found a reason to stick around.  

You can validate them by verbally sharing the qualities and strengths you see in them, and by inviting them to share their honest feelings with you. 

  • Learn to forgive.

A child witnesses the very real anger parents feel toward one another. Explain that it’s because they’re hurting. They may not want to forgive each other, but at some point the child needs to learn to forgive them both

Forgiving doesn’t mean what happened is okay. Forgiveness makes the child a happier person. It leads to a better life in the future. 

  • You will be okay.

Life has changed drastically and abruptly. It’s challenging for a child to imagine how things can ever be normal – or good – again. Help them know that healing will come. Although things will be different, they will be okay.

  • Your mom and dad will be okay too.

It’s painful for a child to see a parent they love suffer. They need to understand that although parents may be hurting right now, they will get better.

  • God isn’t angry with you or your family.

 The divorce doesn’t mean their parents are bad people. It doesn’t mean the child has done something wrong.

God loves them. He’s faithful. He will help them through this. 

Let kids know their family is still important to God. He isn’t ashamed of their family, so they shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed either.

  • God didn’t make this happen.

Because God loves us, he allows us to make choices. He doesn’t boss us around and make us do things we don’t want to do. He hopes we’ll choose to obey him because we love him, but he gives us the choice.

God created the institution of family, and wants families to stay together. Sometimes people make decisions – or have to make decisions when it comes to abuse and addictions – that dissolve the family unit. Because this hurts us, it hurts the heart of God too.

If children trust God, he will bring good things from the pain. Sometimes that means “good things” inside of them.

  • It’s okay to love both of your parents.

A parent who is immersed in personal pain will sometimes instill guilt in the child for loving the other parent. Or a child may feel guilt on their own without provocation.

Regardless of the circumstances, kids will typically continue to love each parent and yearn for a healthy relationship with them both. This may be really hard for a parent to understand.

Kids need to know it’s okay to love both parents. It’s normal and it’s right. There’s no need for them to feel guilty about loving each one. 

  • I’m sorry you’re hurting.

Sometimes the divorced adult is the one who’s comforted and attended to while children are overlooked.

Kids desperately need to know someone cares about their feelings. They need to know they’re not alone in the suffering. Comfort them. Tell them you care. Let them know God sees their hurting heart and cares too.

  • It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling right now.

In the throes of divorce, kids need to be allowed to express their feelings without judgment. To become emotionally healthy, they need to be given freedom to move through the grieving process. Be a safe place for them to share their feelings and fears.

  • You are unconditionally loved.

Divorce shakes the foundations in a child’s  life. At one time, they thought their parents really loved each other. Now they discover their love has died. This translates into insecurity regarding the parent’s love for them. “What if they stop loving me too?” “Maybe they’re leaving because they don’t love me.”

  • You will be taken care of.

A stay-at-home mom may have to go to work outside the home. Children may have to move to a new neighborhood. Daddy won’t be coming home each day. There can be some real anxiety about the future.

Kids need to know their needs will continue to be met. Their parents will still take care of them. They will be safe. They will have a home. They will have food. They will have friends and go to school. 

  • There will still be rules in our home.

A continuance of the same rules and expectations provides structure, comfort, familiarity, and security. During tumultuous times, children  need this stability. It’s best for a child’s well-being when rules and expectations are the same in each parent’s home. Inconsistencies can lead to manipulation and disrespect.

  • This situation is temporary. 

Children have a hard time seeing beyond the here and now. To them, it may seem like they will always be stuck in this place of pain and difficulty.

Help them look to the future with hope. They have their whole life ahead of them, and will grow up to make their own decisions one day. They may have the opportunity to build their own family. With the right person and a relationship with Jesus, they will have the ability to create the kind of family they want. 

God works miracles in the human heart. With his help, my heart is whole and healthy today. The same is possible for every child of divorce.

I urge you to champion the well-being of children. Put yourself out there. Help a child of divorce today using the tips I shared.

Here are some other helpful links:

Children’s Needs While Going Through a Divorce

Helping Kids Cope With Separation and Divorce 

Are you a child of divorce? What helped you heal? What else do children need to know?

Lisa~


 

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2 Comments

  1. Kathleen says:

    Thank you Lisa. This is excellent information that will help many.

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