Welcome back to Tuesday Talk. Today we’re gleaning some insight from Linda Ranson Jacobs. Linda is one of the forefront leaders in the area of children and divorce. She has been actively involved in ministering to children and their families for years. Having been both divorced and widowed, Linda was a single mom who learned firsthand the emotional and support needs of broken families, and she developed a passion to help hurting families. Linda developed the popular DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids (dc4k.org) and still serves as the DC4K Advisor. She has also developed HLP4.com which provides free resources for those serving single parent families.
We asked Linda how kidmin workers and leaders can best minister to the kids and parents who are in the midst of a divorce. What’s good to say? What’s the worst thing they can say? Here is what Linda shared:
What do you say when you find out a child in your group is experiencing the separation or divorce of their parents?
How you feel about divorce influences your response. If you know nothing about divorce it feels like all of a sudden you are entering a different country. This new foreign language includes words like court, custodial, non custodial, mediation, co-parenting, visitation. If these words scare you, think about the child that is hearing them for the first time.
If your parents divorced you may still be confused about the whole divorce thing. Whatever your experience as a children’s leader or minister you need to step up and be prepared to minister to these children with the love of Jesus.
What to do:
- Accept the child into your loving arms. Ask the child if he or she would like a hug (use side hugs) or fist bumps. Physically connect in some way with the child.
- Don’t ask them how they feel but help them label their feelings. “Your eyes are scrunched together and your mouth is going like this. Seems to be you might be sad.”
- Ask them about their other parent. It is okay to talk about the parent that left. You may be the only person on this side of the invisible line the child can talk to about the departed parent.
- Adjust your discipline guidelines. It’s not that you need to coddle the child but many times their behavior is their voice. They don’t have the words to use to tell you they are angry, sad, or lonely but they can show you with their behavior. Accommodate them.
- Ask the child how you can help. “What can I do for you today?” Or, “What do you need from me?”
- When a child presents a problem or makes a comment, stop and pray with them. “You know what I do when I’m sad? I go to my heavenly Father and I tell Him what’s bothering me. We can do that right now. Let’s talk to God.” Keep in mind many of these children are not exposed to prayer and they worry about how to do that thing called “pray”.
- Adjust your attendance charts. If a child consistently attends every other Sunday, make exceptions. Or if they attend a different church with their other parent, count that in your attendance.
- Freely share God’s word with them. Send them home with a scripture card every week and tell them to post it on their bathroom mirror or text it to them.
- Be gentle with the single parent. Many are on overload and they can’t remember the special event coming up. Send them an email!
What not to do:
- Do not ignore a divorce is happening. The child knows it and her or she knows that you know it so don’t turn this into an awkward situation.
- Don’t feel sorry for that poor little kid. “You know his parents are (whispered voice) divorced.) It is really is okay to use the “D” word with the child.
- Do not shy away from the child of divorce. Kids of divorce learn to read body language very well. They have to in order to survive living in two completely different homes.
- Do not talk about the child of divorce or the parents in the hallways or the bathrooms at your church. If information needs to be relayed to someone, do it in private.
- Do not limit the child to creating only one project if they say the want to make one for the other parent. Be prepared with extra supplies.
There is so much more to consider but hopefully this will get you started. Approach the child of divorce as your new mission field. You may be the only Jesus hands, arms and voice these kids need and they thirst for Jesus just like the kids in foreign mission fields.
“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” Deuteronomy 32:2 (NIV)
Thank you Linda for sharing with us!