Can Children of Divorce Multitask?

MultitaskRecently when I was doing some research about the brain I read that multitasking is a myth – your brain can only focus on one thing at a time. Most of us in the Kidmin world multitask. I have prided myself on multitasking for years and now I’m reading it’s not very productive. As I thought about this idea of multitasking a light bulb went off in my brain. Could this be one of the reasons kids of divorce might not function too well at various times?”

If your brain can only focus on one thing at a time, it might very well be why kids of divorce can’t concentrate at church, at school and other places that require concentration. To a child and their brain thinking about mom and or dad in two separate houses and being worried about their siblings, their pets, which parent is picking me up tonight might and where am I going to sleep might equate to multitasking.

When you look at the definition of multitasking on Wikipedia you’ll read, “Human multitasking is the apparent performance by an individual of handling more than one task at the same time.” Now I realize the researchers are saying by multitasking one is switching from one activity to another. You are probably going to say the kids are only doing one activity such as scripture memory or listening to a story on Sunday morning.

While it might appear children in your group are only doing one physical activity you can be assured that their brains are on overload, which I think is going to affect how well they pay attention to the person reading a Bible story.

Within their little minds there might be several stories unfolding and their inner voices are so loud telling these stories that they simply can’t hear what you are saying.

Think about the following story themes that might be floating around in the brain screaming at the child

  • What if my mom’s boyfriend brings his kids to our house while I’m gone this weekend? What am I going to do if they get into my stuff?
  • I know my dad says he wants me to live with him all the time, but what can I do because my mom told me the judge said “50/50”. I’m not really sure what that means but I think it means I can’t live with dad all the time.
  • If I do get to go live with my dad, how is that going to make my mom feel? Won’t she get all mad and stuff?
  • I wonder if my mom remembered to feed my hamster. I sure don’t him to die. What would I do without him to talk to every night?

In reality you are competing with louder voices that sound more important that what you are saying. So while the child appears to be listening and thinking as in multitasking they are not being very successful at paying attention to all these voices. That’s kind of like us trying to listen to voice mail, type an email and watch the latest Yancy video all at the same time.

Research shows we are not very productive when we try to do so many things at once. Children are not very productive when they try to do several things at once.

What can you do?

1. You can slow things down a bit for the child of divorce. Perhaps provide a quiet place for them to go to where they can simply relax for a moment. This should not punitive or used as a punishment but a place to just regroup.

When you are stressed and trying to answer little Jane’s mother’s email, your cell phone is buzzing you have a text and the Senior Pastor needs to see you ten minutes ago don’t you wish you could have a place where you could escape? While you might not get to use a place like that, you can provide one for the children in your group.

2. You can provide music that stretches and gets the child moving. Stretching and inhaling deeply will allow the brain to focus better.

3. You can provide a journaling notebook where the child can record what is bothering them. On various pages of this journaling book you can write a scripture at the top of each page.

4. You can take a few moments to pray with the child, collectively in your group or one on one at the side of the room.

The answer to the question, “Can kids of divorce multitask?” I don’t think they can and if they do they are not going to be very productive and by allowing them or encouraging them to multitask we are setting them to fail as adults.

What’s your idea about helping kids of divorce not multitask?

For more resources and information on divorce, family disruption and modern families please visit our Hope 4 Hurting Kids Divorce and Modern Family Help Center.

* Original image from Scott Maxwell (Creative Commons License – (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/).

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on March 07, 2014.

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Written by Linda Ranson Jacobs

Linda Ranson Jacobs is one of the forefront leaders in the area of children and divorce. She developed and created the DivorceCare for Kids programs. DC4K is an international program for churches to use to help children of divorced parents find healing within the arms of a loving church family. As a speaker, author, trainer, program developer and child care center owner, Linda has assisted countless families by modeling and acting on the healing love she has found in Jesus Christ. Linda offers support, encouragement and suggestions to help those working with the child of divorce. She serves as DC4K Ambassador (http://www.dc4k.org) and can be reached via email at ljacobs@dc4k.org. You can find additional articles from Linda on her blog at http://blog.dc4k.org/.