And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
Recognizing the plight of children of divorce at Christmas time can help children in divorced families stay connected to the church and attentive to the birth of Christ during the holidays.
Christmas Through the Eyes of the Child of Divorce
While most people get excited about the holidays, children from divorced homes often go into a depression, get very anxious or simply disconnect when preparing for all of the events associated with Christmas. Sometimes, this is related to the uncertainty surrounding which home they will be in when celebrating various events. Other times, it might be because they really want to be with both parents during the holidays but know that that is not possible. This leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed. Or they may fantasize about their parents getting back together. When that doesn’t happen, they can become angry or sad. Many children of divorce simply feel lost during the holidays so they disconnect.
With all the rushing around at the holidays for parties, church, concerts, plays, shopping and more, single parents still have to work. They still have to parent alone, and stress abounds. Children may feel the stress of the Christmas celebration times two – two homes and two parents. You might say they experience double whammies of both stress and holiday celebrating.
Thanksgiving is now a memory and Christmas looms before us. For some kids Christmas is an exciting time of the year. For many kids Christmas may mean staying up late, no school, visits with relatives, presents and candy. As people who work with kids, we want them to find the true meaning of Christmas. Most of you will go overboard trying to relay the story of the baby Jesus and his humble birth with special lessons and activities. There will be special Christmas musicals; special holiday parties or celebrations; perhaps even caroling events also.
We want kids to come to church and enjoy the “specialness” of this time of year. That’s why I want to start early this year asking you to prepare yourself for the child of divorce. If it is a child’s first Christmas after the separation or divorce of their parents, you might want to be prepared for a variety of feelings to be exhibited. Depending on how recent the divorce was, the child may appear to be in shock, or the child may be confused not sure of what their feelings are.
If it has been several months, and the child has begun to process the divorce, you may find some anger feelings emerging in your classes. If the child feels safe with you, then don’t be surprised if a lot of anger comes out. Some children will hold their anger in when they are around their parents. They don’t want to upset their already stressed and/or angry parents. But, when they get to a safe place and if you have developed a relationship with them, then they will let their guard down and express themselves.
One of the ways you can help these children, especially around Christmas when they are feeling even more stressed than normal, is to help them understand their anger. You can do this by helping them see what
When parents divorce, children are more likely to lose their connections with those around them. Many of us in the Christian world have known that children are born to connect. We have observed and watched as children become disconnected. Many problems facing young people today are due in large part to our failure to meet the children’s most basic human need for connectedness.
Rituals help children connect with you, the leaders. Rituals bond relationships together. Divorce brings many changes to the child. The child loses the two-parent home and access to both parents under the same roof. The children may experience the loss of their self-esteem and their sense of well-being. They may lose a lifestyle. They lose their things, and some even lose the home they have always known. Children may attach themselves to their things, and then when those things disappear, the children get confused. Things and possessions bring a sense of comfort, control and a sense of order to a child’s life.
Connecting through rituals
With the divorce rate, our families have only gotten weaker. While we may not be able to stop the divorce rate immediately, we can assist the children and go to battle for them in this world of confusion. We can make the children stronger by connecting with them.
Editor’s Note: Linda Ranson Jacobs is back with a “Top Ten” list. This week, she offers ten ways to pray for children of divorce and their families. You can access a printer friendly (and shareable) pdf version of this list by clicking anywhere in the list below.Hope 4 Hurting Kids Divorce and Modern Family Help Center.
Over the last several weeks, we laid a foundation for examining how divorce affects the development of children (specifically spiritual development), how kids are wired to connect and recapped some of the impacts of divorce. Today, we are going to look more specifically at how divorce impacts the different areas of a child’s development.
Development stops or is hindered at the time of the divorce.
Much of the literature and studies surrounding children of divorce focuses on emotional and social impacts of divorce. Often times, this development gets put on hold or gets stuck in anger following the divorce. Many adult children of divorce end up walking around as adults functioning on the equivalent of an eight or nine year old emotional level. Emotions may or may not improve with time, but most adults can fake it enough to survive and get by in an adult world. However, what is going on underneath the skin may be detrimental to their health and well-being as adults.
Last week, we looked at the myth perpetuated in the 1970’s that children of divorce were resilient when it came to the divorce of their parents. We also examined the “normal” development of children and started our discussion of the spiritual development of kids. This week, let’s look at why and how divorce can impact a child’s spiritual development.
Hardwired to Connect – The Report (www.americanvalues.org)
In 2003 The Commission on Children at Risk, a panel of thirty-three leading children’s doctors, research scientist and youth service professionals sponsored by Dartmouth Medical School, YMCA and the Institute for American Values issued a report called “Hardwired to Connect.”
The project was started because of the concern of seeing growing numbers of children and youth that were failing to flourish. The experts were also concerned with the large percentage of children and youth that were suffering from mental illness, emotional anguish and overwhelming behavior problems. This included but was not limited to depression, drug abuse, along with suicidal and violent tendencies. The majority of the people on the commission were children’s doctors and those in the mental health profession. In the report (page 8) it says, “One of the main reasons we formed this commission is that our waiting lists are too long.”
Introduction: From the Seventies – Children Are Resilient
In the early seventies our world changed dramatically. Divorce, while it had always been around, was kept fairly quiet. All of that changed when Ronald Regan signed the no fault divorce law in California. Like a speeding bullet divorce took aim at the families of America. Ronald Regan had no way of knowing that this one law would change our society in monumental ways.
Immediately I was thrown into the divorce arena when after moving to California I was placed in a low-income school where the majority of the children came from broken homes. I began to witness parents of the children in our school remarrying only to divorce again. Or I watched as uncle after uncle moved in and out of the homes. Fathers on the other hand just called their girlfriends live-ins. I began taking mental notes and studying the child of divorce.
The general consensus at that time was that children were resilient. They would suffer for a short while and then they would be okay. Many people thought if the parents would quickly remarry this would give the child a two-parent family then things would be even better.
I have kept in touch or kept track of some of the children I worked with back in the early 70s. For the children that had extended family support and church family support their outcomes are much better than ones that didn’t. Escapism seemed to be the route many took and still take today. Some accomplished this through dependence on drugs, alcohol and changing partners.
It’s one thing to know something about a single parent family’s situation. It’s quite another thing to understand a situation enough that you can empathize, appreciate the frustrations involved in living in a single parent home and be tolerant of a family’s situation.
In this article, I’d like to look at actually understanding what goes on inside a single parent home. Try to place yourself in the role of being a single parent. First of all there is no one to help you. I mean NO ONE! You are on 24/7 and that’s not for just a day or week or a month or this year but for many single parents it is for years.
Let’s look in on some typical single parents. In this first scene we see a mom sitting in the audience of a school concert. She is sitting there looking very calm on the outside but on the inside experiencing unbelievable turmoil.
“Now let’s see, if Chase’s group will just perform in the next fifteen minutes then I can sneak out of this concert and go across town, and if I don’t hit too many red lights, I can get there just in time to see Heather play soccer. If I can just stay long enough to see one quarter, are they called quarters or what? Oh well, I have to learn about soccer on another day, I don’t have time to worry about it now. Let’s see where was I? Oh yes, I can come back here pick up Chase before the end of this performance and then we can rush back, get Heather, go home and make dinner. Oh yeah, I’ve got to remember to pick up some milk for breakfast. Then while dinner is cooking I can start the laundry. I hope those kids got the clothes sorted. Did Chase say he needs tape for that science project? Oh well, I might as well get some tape while I’m at the store. After dinner I’ll have to remember to set aside some time to help Chase with that project. After I get the kids to bed I’ve got to remember to go online and pay the credit card bill. Please let my paycheck get to the bank before the credit card payment! I’m going to have to remember to check the date online on that bill and make sure I can pay it after 11:00 pm in our time zone and not get charged another late fee. I think there’s a three-hour difference in our time zones. Honestly, I can’t keep up with when everything goes through the bank and I’ve got to remember that I wrote a check for the school fundraiser. Did I even give Heather that check yesterday morning? Then I’ll have to get my clothes ready for tomorrow. I think I’ll wear that blue outfit but I have to remember to fix that tear. Gee, I wonder how many more washings that outfit can take. It must be five years old by now but I’ve got that important meeting at work tomorrow and I’ve got to wear something that looks half-way decent. Whew! Maybe I can get to bed by midnight. Oh well, that’s earlier than last night. Oh, shoot I was supposed to call my mom tonight. I’ll have to remember to try and find time tomorrow night.”
I often have the opportunity to speak with children’s workers who work with children of divorce. One of the biggest issues when it comes to ministering to these children has to do with discipline.
On one occasion, I was part of a children’s ministers’ small group meeting, and we were talking about summer camps. I mentioned that I thought it would be great if there were a class for children of divorce during a summer camp. One of the ladies said:
“Oh yeah?!? Who would want a class of all out of control kids? Because, you know those kids from divorced homes – they are going to be acting out all the time!”
WHAT! Don’t these kids deserve the Lord’s love and the opportunity to have summer camp experiences just like kids from intact families?