Some parents with school aged children have the means to engage a professional therapist when they enter into divorce proceedings, not only for themselves, but for their children. This may be helpful in the long run, but what exists for the kids who don’t have access to this resource? Who can listen to their expressions of anger and bewilderment with an impartial attitude and give helpful responses? One answer may be within a fellowship of Christians. There you can often find and equip believers to hold out hope in just such situations.
When I was a teenager, I attended a well-balanced, Bible-honoring church even though my parents were not church goers. I remember some sources for guidance God provided for me. For many years I had the same dedicated Sunday School teacher who played an important role in my life as did some youth pastors. I was also blessed by invitations to join friends in their home. These friends’ parents were Christians who often found time to listen over pizza and Cokes after a game or some other event.
Divorce was not a burning issue in my life during those years, but if it had been, I would have been encouraged in my walk with Jesus by these adult friends. I was impressed that they modeled the things they said they believed, they would listen to me without judging, and they offered advice when I was ready to receive it. God still has such people today who can bless children of divorce.
We do well to remember that each child, when caught up in the storm that surrounds his parents’ divorce, will respond according to several factors. His unique temperament will be one, along with the experience itself and its outcome. Take these things into account when God gives you the privilege of bringing peace and healing to a child facing a difficult emotional stretch in his young life.
1) Listen carefully with your heart – with prayer and great patience. This may be the biggest hurdle, just getting a child to trust you enough to open up. In most cases her doing this will be based on a relationship.
2) Refuse to take sides or respond with criticism of either parent.
3) Help the child accept that he is not responsible for his parents’ actions, if this is an issue. The divorce is not his fault.
4) If a child appears to listen to your brief responses you may be sure God will use this interchange to her benefit. Be careful not to give ‘sermons.’ You can tell when a child has tuned you out if you’re sensitive to this.
5) Do point her to Jesus and to God’s Word. Especially pertinent are issues of forgiveness from God’s point of view. If you can, help her deal with any promptings she might reveal of feeling guilty or being unable to forgive herself or the adults in her life.
6) Whereas forgiveness is an act of obedience, emotions often seem out of our control. Help the child see that he is loved by a Heavenly Father in whom there is no weakness or betrayal, no matter how unloved or unloving he may feel at any time.
7) Of course, pray! Pray as you interact with youngsters, pray for them and pray with them. Take a hopeful, positive position, especially with the ones who are believers. They are fully capable of receiving God’s truth and putting it into action with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and your faithful encouragement.
These ideas have only scratched the surface, but I pray that they will alert some readers of opportunities God may send your way to minister God’s grace to hurting kids.