Help Children Who Divorce Has Hurt
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2002 27 Nov
Here are some ways you can help children - either your own or someone else's - who have been affected by divorce:
- Acknowledge the depth of children's pain. Realize that divorce has ripped apart their world. Encourage them to honestly express how they feel, and make time to truly listen to them. If youve experienced divorce yourself, youre suffering, too, but dont become preoccupied with your own pain because your children need your help.
- Pray for children regularly, interceding for them in specific ways. Let them know that you're praying for them and invite them to pray with you when they would like.
- Give children clear, concrete answers to all their questions about why their parents are divorcing and how life will change for them. Give children information as soon as you can - before a separation occurs, if possible.
- Help provide a stable environment for children with as few changes as possible.
- Reassure children that they are not to blame for the divorce. Even though it may not make sense to adults, children often feel as if they must have done something bad to cause a divorce. Let them know that no one is angry at them. Also tell them gently that nothing they can do on their own will cause their parents to reconcile (a common hope), so they don't waste time and energy trying to make it happen.
- Shower children with love whenever you can. Tell them often how much you love them, and back your words up through loving actions such as frequent hugs and regular one-one-one time together.
- Don't use children as messengers to communicate with a former spouse. Talk directly to your former spouse, especially when dealing with stressful issues.
- Don't talk negatively about one of the children's parents in front of the children, or force the children to choose sides between their parents. Remember that children love both their parents and naturally want to be loyal to both. Allow children to maintain the closest relationships possible to each parent.
- Know that it's okay for children to see you cry or get angry, but not if your emotions are out of control. Children can benefit from seeing how you honestly deal with your feelings, but they need to feel secure enough to know that they can depend on you.
- Forgive! Don't let resentment poison your life and seep over into children's lives as well. God will give you the power you need to be able to forgive.
- Let children remain children. Don't expect them to take on unrealistic new responsibilities. Allow them to continue their hobbies and activities, and encourage them to have fun whenever they can.
- If you're a divorced parent, wait at least two years before introducing a potential stepparent into your children's lives. Don't expect your children to be as close to that person as they are to your former spouse.
- If you don't have custody of your children, keep in contact with them as frequently as possible - through e-mail, phone calls, and more beyond regular visits. When you do get to visit, maintain the same level of discipline your children receive with the custodial parent, and don't feel pressure to buy their affection through expensive outings or material things. Simply give them the gift of time and attention. Also, be sure to faithfully pay child support to help meet your children's needs.
- Seek out friends and other resources - such as counseling support - for children through churches, schools, and other organizations.
Adapted from Your Kids and Divorce: Helping Them Grow Beyond the Hurt, copyright 2001 by Thomas A. Whiteman. Published by Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerbooks.com, 1-800-877-2665.
Thomas A. Whiteman, Ph.D. in psychology and human development, is the founder and president of Life Counseling Services and the Mid-Atlantic director of Fresh Start seminars. He conducts more than 50 divorce recovery seminars a year throughout the United States.
How have children you know been affected by their parents' divorce? What are some ways you can help them? If you've been divorced yourself or experienced the divorce of your parents as a child, what suggestions do you have for people who would like to reach out to hurting children? Visit Live It's forum to respond, or read what others have to say. Just click on the link below.