Children feel a divorce as strongly as their custodial parent. In fact, many children take ownership of the breakup of the family. In the middle of the emotional turmoil of a divorced family, special attention must be given to the children. When one parent walks away, it cuts into the heart of a child with indescribable pain.
I’ve been counseling for 21 years and people who have gone through a divorced family have taught me that the pain does not disappear over years. Adult children of divorce still struggle with non-acceptance. They battle with the feeling of low-self worth. The question is, “If my birth parent could walk away from me to follow selfish desires, how can I trust God or anyone else?” Divorced children need special attention and time with their remaining custodial parent. The ideal would be for both parents to take extra special time with each child in the family, but that will only happen with a parent who is not selfish. Selfishness is at the root of all divorces be it adultery, abuse, career climbing, finances, etc.
When a father walks away from the family, the remaining son looses his chance of having a god-like example of a father who could say, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” The remaining daughter aches in her heart and will struggle with the thought of ever trusting a man in her life as a husband. Her question, “My father deserted my family, how can I trust another man who says he loves me?” When a mother walks away through divorce, it hits in the ‘gut’ of both sons and daughters, not understanding how someone who gave them birth could desert them for selfish desires.
Young children of divorced families must be told God’s truth about their value and worth. Each child must understand that God was in their mother’s womb when they were being designed (Psalm 139). God made every part of them as their Creator. They also need to be taught and reminded how precious they are in the sight of God because He came in flesh to die on a cross because He loved us so much. God will never leave or forsake us – even a child of divorce.
If a child says, “Why would God allow my mom/dad to leave me?” Share that God gives all of us choice, either to love and serve Him or serve selfish desires. It’s about a person’s choice. I know there can be abuse in a marriage that causes the spouse to remove self/children from that environment and that is understood. God does not agree with any type of abuse – verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical at any time in any situation. When a person makes ungodly choices in words or actions, it is because of evil and sin in the heart.
Grandparents can be a blessing to the child who suffers in divorce. It is a matter of choice. Don’t take sides. Make a decision to be supportive with God’s truth to the grandchild. Share how much God loves them. Encourage the child in their bent or interests in life. Teach them God’s principles. Those principles will never leave their heart. Teach by example how to love unconditionally. Pray with them for the parent who left the family.
Children of divorce must be encouraged to understand that although they are from a divorced home this does not define who they are personally. They are creations of God and He will never leave them or forsake them. As a child of God, he/she is complete in HIM! These truths must be continually reinforced with the children. It takes consistent time and effort to make those special times with the children with the custodial parent. This parent must watch his/her own attitudes and actions. Do not use the child as a ‘sounding board’ for hurts or emotional pain. The child must never become the ‘substitute spouse.’
If the divorced parent needs counseling, seek help – please do not ‘dump’ on your child. God instructs us as much as it lieth within self to live peaceably with all men. Put your children first after your relationship with God. Have short daily devotionals with your children. Pray with them. Reaffirm God’s love continually.
© Carol Clemans – October 2013
Carol Clemans is a Certified Pastoral Counselor and conference speaker. Carol provides counseling nationwide by phone and Skype – (636) 448-0121. The Clemans’ pastor is Bishop Jerry Dillon, Madison, MS. Go to: www.carolclemans.org for articles posted and teaching CD’s – DVD’s – book: God’s Design for Marriage. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.