How to Love Kids with Divorced Parents
Divorce is devastatingly prevalent in the United States. 50% of first marriages end in divorce. 60% of second marriages end in divorce. 73% of third marriages end in divorce. That’s across the board, but the statistics aren’t that different among Christian families.
Here’s the point. You will be loving and serving children that come from broken homes. You can almost count on half or more of your children to have parents that are separated, divorced, or even on their second or third marriages. So, how do you love them well? Here are some ideas:
Get to know your kids
Your kids – and their family situations – need to be known. Depending on the size of your church you may or may not have the capacity to know the family dynamic of every child in your ministry, but someone needs to know. If you can’t do it, equip and empower your team (staff or volunteers) to get to know your children and their families. Encourage them to engage with parents – particularly those that are divorced. You (and they) can gain so much insight on how to best love your children from their parents.
Don’t be afraid to ask them about it
Short story. My parents divorced when I was a sophomore in high school. Partly out of personal embarrassment, I didn’t tell anyone for more than a year afterward. How did I finally let people know? I gave an oral presentation about divorce in my English class where I planned to share my personal experience. I say “planned” because I got about 2 sentences in before I broke down crying. The upside is that my English teacher connected me with the school counselor where I was able to process through the hurt and sadness in a safe and loving environment. Because of that, I experienced so much healing.
If you know of kids in your ministry whose parents have recently divorced, don’t be afraid to talk to them about it in private. Remember, though, you’re not a trained counselor (unless you’re actually a trained counselor), so don’t try to be one. Be their pastor, though. Provide them with a loving, listening ear. And if the child’s level of hurt warrants it, point the mother or father toward some counseling solutions specifically for their kid.
Explain who God the Father is
Here’s the difficulty of talking about God the Father—some children of divorce don’t even know their earthly father. Or maybe they do, but their father is a poor example of what it means to be a dad. For them, the word “father” might not communicate the same thing as it would for other kids. This doesn’t mean you should avoid talking about God as our Heavenly Father, but when you do, it’s helpful to elaborate on it by saying something like “God is the perfect example of what a father should be—someone who loves us and never leaves us no matter what.”
Reinforce their true identity
The children entrusted to you are first and foremost children of God – created by Him and made in His image. They need to know and hear that. Here are a couple of ways you can reinforce their primary identity.
They are loved (Romans 8:38-39)
They are children of God (Ephesians 1:5)
They are never alone (Joshua 1:9)
They were created for a purpose (Psalm 139:14)
They are worth loving – and worth dying for (John 3:16)
Children of divorce need to know that they have a God that is absolutely crazy about them. But, honestly, so do the children with intact families. Make reinforcing these identity markers just a part of your ministry.
Consider creating a challenge where all of your children memorize those fives truths (you could probably come up with more – but these are a good starting place) or even these five passages from the Bible about who God says they are.I have such a heart for children of divorce. It’s sad that any child should have to experience that. Your role, though, is to create a steady and safe place for your children to be loved and accepted, and to hear about the good news of Jesus.