Are you concerned about how your divorce will impact your kids? It’s a legitimate concern. How will they handle it? Will divorce leave scars?
Insights to Help You Help Your Children
Research shared by a group of students at John Brown University comes in handy today. They interviewed a divorced couple as well as their three children (now adults) regarding their reflections on the personal impact of a divorce that occurred 12 years ago.
To help you benefit the most, I’ve inserted key points into the story in brackets. So, let’s see what we can glean from one family’s story.
Learning from the Johnson Family
[To protect privacy the excerpts below from the student’s report use fictitious names.]
“The Johnson family tried to fight off divorce for many years but the struggle was out of their control. In 2003 Mr. and Mrs. Johnson signed their divorce papers. Their divorce was fairly fast considering they had discussed most of the details before telling their family and friends about it.”
[For the kids the divorce seemed sudden which can leave their heads and hearts in a tailspin. Hopefully the adults had worked out the details of how the divorce would impact the kids. The sooner kids can know how their daily life will be affected the better. The unknown is scary.]
“Mrs. Johnson said that she and her now ex-husband experienced a point their marriage where they couldn’t fight anymore. They didn’t choose to give up, a time just came when they knew divorce was the best option for everyone. The Johnson were in love when they got married, but they were also young and their fundamental beliefs and values clashed.
The Johnson tried to compromise and it worked for some issues. He allowed her to raise the kids with her faith and she gave up teaching the kids their native tongue. Mrs. Johnson is still not over her divorce and continues to pray for her ex-husband and their kids, Matt, Kim, and Sam.”
[It sounds like Mrs. Johnson is still carrying notable divorce wounds 12 years after her divorce. This highlights the importance of becoming intentional about healing from divorce. It is also true that it is easier for children to heal from divorce when their parents are healing from divorce.]
“Going through a divorce was difficult for the children. Each of them experienced this in a different way.”
[Children will cope in different ways. Allow each child to deal in their own way and be responsive to their individual needs.]
“Matt shares that questions about his own role in the divorce came up. He was twelve when his dad left the house and his father’s absence led to him asking if there was something wrong with his own behavior that caused his dad to leave. Did I cause the divorce seems to be a common theme among many children of divorce. “What did I do wrong?” “Why don’t they love me?” When in fact nothing the child could’ve said or done differently could’ve changed the situation.”
[Make it clear to your children that the divorce is not their fault. Divorce is about issues between adults.]
“Kim feels that talking about her experience was the biggest obstacle for her to overcome. She feels…that the biggest source of discontentment was in her peers’ oversensitivity to bringing up the topic. She ended up feeling “cut off from everyone”, because it seemed like everyone around her was more focused on distracting her from her problems then helping her talk through them.”
[Most people don’t know how to help you or your children cope with divorce and may be more likely to try to cheer you up or distract you than listen to you. Allow your children to talk with you about their feelings and explain the importance of this to other adults who are in your children’s lives.]
“Sam identifies himself as more of the ‘rebel’ of the family. He felt that finding acceptance and coming to terms with the divorce even though he didn’t want it to happen was his biggest struggle. He had to accept that the situation was completely out of his control. He encourages people going through the same thing to rely fully on God, because He can get you through anything.”
[Two points here… 1. Acceptance is the first step toward healing. Acceptance takes time. Avoid acting in ways that misleads your children into believing you will be reunited if in fact you won’t. 2. Set an example of relying on God for your kids. Teach them to trust God to see them through life’s challenges.]
-Thank you to the Johnsons and students at John Brown University for sharing this story.
You Can Help Your Children Cope with Divorce
Being aware of what your kids are going through is important. Acting in supportive ways as their parent matters. Keep in mind the seven points listed above and you’ll have a good starting place for helping your children fair well as they deal with your divorce.
You’ll also find a section on helping children deal with divorce in my book, Peace after Divorce. Peace after Divorce is written to walk you through a variety of topics from your own personal healing from divorce to dealing with your ex and other relevant topics.
Peace after Divorce has been recognized as an exemplary Christian self-help book by the 2013 Illumination Book Awards. You can read reviews on Amazon by clicking the book image →
“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” Proverbs 16:16 NIV
About the Author…
Renee Smith Ettline is author of the award-winning book, Peace after Divorce, and founder of After Divorce Ministries, LLC. Her Christian divorce recovery blog posts every Friday morning. Church-based divorce recovery workshops based on her work are offered around the country.
Find out how more about Peace after Divorce Support Groups and Workshops CLICK HERE.
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