Hope 4 Hurting Kids http://hope4hurtingkids.com Helping Kids and Teens Move from Hurt to Hope and Healing Fri, 24 Mar 2017 12:00:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.3 60642915 Culture Shock: Talking to Parents About Their Children’s Behavior http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-talking-to-parents-about-their-childrens-behavior/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-talking-to-parents-about-their-childrens-behavior/#respond Fri, 24 Mar 2017 12:00:50 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1233 This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce. Behavioral Issues Many children of divorce exhibit behavior issues. As you have learned from reading other articles here on DivorceMinistry4Kids you know these children live stress-filled chaotic lives. Oftentimes, they are overcome with anger and confusion and guilt. They are confused, scared, depressed and angry children. In many circumstances these underlying feelings manifest themselves in acting out. They act out their feelings through their behavior. Researchers are now realizing that family crisis and trauma can lead to disruptive behaviors in kids. (If you want to learn more learn more about this subject read, “Are these sings of mental illness in kids? Or normal response to childhood trauma? http://acestoohigh.com/2012/08/30/are-these-signs-of-mental-illness-in-kids-or-normal-responses-to-childhood-trauma/) In traditional children’s ministry, many leaders have been taught that when a child has disruptive behaviors in class, that the right thing to do is take them to their parents. Alternatively, when the child’s parents come to pick their child up after service, we pull them aside and talk privately with the parents about the behavior issue. We do this in love and respect for the family, and we usually try to partner with the parents in helping their child to overcome those issues. We might ask the parent about what is going on in the child’s life and if there are any new issues we should be aware to help us better provide for their child. In other words, communication with the parents is paramount in helping their children in our church classes. This approach is rooted in the idea that parents are meant to be the primary spiritual nurturers of their children, and our role as children’s ministers is to come alongside them and assist in that role. One of the biggest culture shock for children’s ministers when it comes to working with children of divorce is the idea that, with those kids, we need to stop the process of bringing the divorcing parent into the picture. That bears repeating, when it comes to children of divorce, and wherever possible, you should not get the parent involved in disciple issues. In ministering to children of divorce, we discourage leaders from taking a child to their single parent’s class or paging the parent to come pick up their child. Rarely do we even talk to the single parent about the disruptive behavior of their children. Having worked in children’s ministry, we understand that this idea seems very counter-intuitive. Are we really suggesting that we “keep” that information from the parents. However, before you cast this idea to the wind, please hear us out. There is a reason for this approach which has the best welfare of both the child and parent in mind. First, most single parents need to be in their own groups learning about the love of Christ. They need adult time and adult support for their lives. They are experiencing the same kind of day-in and day-out chaos that permeates the lives of children of divorce, and we do them a disservice by running to them every time we can’t get their child to do what he/she is supposed to be doing. They need to heal from the divorce as much as the children, and a relationship with Jesus is a major part of that healing. In the end, if the parent has more time to fellowship, calm down, and learn about Jesus, that will help the recovery process of their children as well. Secondly, single parents are often at a loss for what to do with their child or what to do about disruptive behaviors in the first place. If their child is having behavior problems at church more than likely they are having behavior issues at school and at home as well. Rather than pile on, as the church, we can give these parents some rest from the issues they are likely facing on a daily basis. How Behavioral Issues are Accommodated in the DC4K Program Rather than pull a single parent out of their group or talking to the already overburdened single parent about their child’s disruptive behavior, we suggest to leaders that they deal with behavior issues within their group. Rather than take the “parent route” we suggest that leaders provide a child with choices while still maintaining control of the class. This helps to give the child a sense of power over their own life and might help to alleviate problems. There are several specific reasons in DC4K why we discourage getting parents involved in behavior issues. Those include: The confidentiality issue. In order to allow the child to feel comfortable in talking and sharing with the leaders and other kids, we tell the kids in the very first session that what they say in DC4K is confidential. We tell them they can tell their own parent what they say if they want to, but they don’t have. And, we ask them not to share with their parent what the other children say. In a situation where they act out if we take it directly to the parent when the child is picked up we have just broken the trust aspect of that word “confidential.” By telling the [...]

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This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce.

Behavioral Issues

Many children of divorce exhibit behavior issues. As you have learned from reading other articles here on DivorceMinistry4Kids you know these children live stress-filled chaotic lives. Oftentimes, they are overcome with anger and confusion and guilt. They are confused, scared, depressed and angry children. In many circumstances these underlying feelings manifest themselves in acting out. They act out their feelings through their behavior. Researchers are now realizing that family crisis and trauma can lead to disruptive behaviors in kids. (If you want to learn more learn more about this subject read, “Are these sings of mental illness in kids? Or normal response to childhood trauma? http://acestoohigh.com/2012/08/30/are-these-signs-of-mental-illness-in-kids-or-normal-responses-to-childhood-trauma/)

In traditional children’s ministry, many leaders have been taught that when a child has disruptive behaviors in class, that the right thing to do is take them to their parents. Alternatively, when the child’s parents come to pick their child up after service, we pull them aside and talk privately with the parents about the behavior issue. We do this in love and respect for the family, and we usually try to partner with the parents in helping their child to overcome those issues. We might ask the parent about what is going on in the child’s life and if there are any new issues we should be aware to help us better provide for their child. In other words, communication with the parents is paramount in helping their children in our church classes. This approach is rooted in the idea that parents are meant to be the primary spiritual nurturers of their children, and our role as children’s ministers is to come alongside them and assist in that role.

One of the biggest culture shock for children’s ministers when it comes to working with children of divorce is the idea that, with those kids, we need to stop the process of bringing the divorcing parent into the picture. That bears repeating, when it comes to children of divorce, and wherever possible, you should not get the parent involved in disciple issues. In ministering to children of divorce, we discourage leaders from taking a child to their single parent’s class or paging the parent to come pick up their child. Rarely do we even talk to the single parent about the disruptive behavior of their children.

Having worked in children’s ministry, we understand that this idea seems very counter-intuitive. Are we really suggesting that we “keep” that information from the parents. However, before you cast this idea to the wind, please hear us out. There is a reason for this approach which has the best welfare of both the child and parent in mind.

First, most single parents need to be in their own groups learning about the love of Christ. They need adult time and adult support for their lives. They are experiencing the same kind of day-in and day-out chaos that permeates the lives of children of divorce, and we do them a disservice by running to them every time we can’t get their child to do what he/she is supposed to be doing. They need to heal from the divorce as much as the children, and a relationship with Jesus is a major part of that healing. In the end, if the parent has more time to fellowship, calm down, and learn about Jesus, that will help the recovery process of their children as well.

Secondly, single parents are often at a loss for what to do with their child or what to do about disruptive behaviors in the first place. If their child is having behavior problems at church more than likely they are having behavior issues at school and at home as well. Rather than pile on, as the church, we can give these parents some rest from the issues they are likely facing on a daily basis.

How Behavioral Issues are Accommodated in the DC4K Program

Rather than pull a single parent out of their group or talking to the already overburdened single parent about their child’s disruptive behavior, we suggest to leaders that they deal with behavior issues within their group. Rather than take the “parent route” we suggest that leaders provide a child with choices while still maintaining control of the class. This helps to give the child a sense of power over their own life and might help to alleviate problems.

There are several specific reasons in DC4K why we discourage getting parents involved in behavior issues. Those include:

  • The confidentiality issue. In order to allow the child to feel comfortable in talking and sharing with the leaders and other kids, we tell the kids in the very first session that what they say in DC4K is confidential. We tell them they can tell their own parent what they say if they want to, but they don’t have. And, we ask them not to share with their parent what the other children say. In a situation where they act out if we take it directly to the parent when the child is picked up we have just broken the trust aspect of that word “confidential.” By telling the parent, we tell it says to the child, “It’s okay for the kid to keep confidences but we don’t have to as adults.” Trust issues are broken yet again by adult who are supposed to care.
  • We tell the kids we are the Safe Keepers. We are going to keep them safe at DC4K and they are to help us keep things safe. Almost all discipline situations can be handled by saying, “Whoa there sport, jumping off the table isn’t safe. What could you do that would be safe?” If we go directly to the parent with this issue then we aren’t very good Safe Keepers and we are saying to the kid, “Okay I might have told you I’m your Safe Keeper and it’s your job to help me keep things safe, but I really didn’t meant it. I don’t think you are capable of helping me keep anything safe.”
  • Many things we talk about in DC4K bring out the hurt the child is feeling. Since some children can’t verbalize their feelings, they let times their actions and behaviors speak for them. It’s our job to give them the words and language to help them express themselves. If we go to the parent we run the risk of the parent denying the child is feeling anything. Or the single parent feels so guilty they are clueless as to what to do. If this is the case, we heap coals of guilt upon the parent. Neither of these represents a partnering with the parent. Many divorcing parents do not have the capability to partner with you. They are trying, and many times unsuccessfully, to partner with the other parent. That is about all they can handle at the moment.
  • Many divorcing parents are so stressed and in such a state of shock they literally don’t have the ability to parent their child. We have to give them time to settle down, get control of their own emotions before we can offer parenting suggestions.
  • Some parents are stressed to the max and if approached about their child’s actions will only prompt them to use inappropriate discipline measures such as yelling and threatening, “If you can’t behave at church, then you just won’t be allowed to go see your dad this weekend.” Bad, bad, bad consequence! Now the child really doesn’t feel safe and look out next week because the behavior is probably going to get worse.
  • Many divorcing parents have no control at home and will not have a clue what to do with their child.
  • The divorcing parent is only one side of the child’s family. There is another parent who might be parenting completely opposite of the parent bringing the child to DC4K. They have no say in what goes on in the other home and may just throw up their hands because things are out of their control.

Guilt, embarrassment, loss of control with their child, feeling of hopelessness, stress and depression are a few of the reasons in DC4K we don’t take discipline situations to the parent. Most of the kids coming to DC4K will not have a parent who regularly attends your church. For the most part a children’s minister will not be well acquainted with the family. DC4K might be the only bridge into the church family. We don’t want the divorcing parent to pull their child from the one place that can help bring this child into the Kingdom. In extreme cases when a leader can’t get control of the child, then we gently probe what might be going on at home. After a visit to the home and once a relationship has been forged with the single parent, we can then offer parenting helps and resources that are designed specifically for the single parent. These are much different than what a children’s minister would offer a two-parent family.

Behavioral Issues and the Child of Divorce in a Traditional Children’s Ministry Setting

Unlike some of the other issues in this series where certain things can be “tweaked” to accommodate the child of divorce, the issue of behavior and children of divorce may dictate an overhaul of how you think about discipline in your children’s ministry. That said, you may find that rethinking your discipline plan for all kids, to accommodate children of divorce, may actually lead to a system that is built more on discipleship than punishment.

So, where do you start? I believe you start first with a plan. If you do not have a discipline plan, you should develop one. All kids need structure and a plan – children of divorce will particularly appreciate it (even if they might not seem to at first). Sit down and write your plan for the ministry. Do the children in your ministry know the expectations? Do you go over the rules of the room regularly? Are the rules clear and easy to remember? Do you warn a child about a behavior? If so, how and how many times before you move to the next level of discipline? Do you let the child know what is going to happen if they do not head your warning? When, if ever, do you get parents involved? Are there exceptions to that rule? When would you remove a child from your ministry based on behavior? Would you ever do that? All of these are questions which should be wrestled with in order to develop a uniform discipline plan. Once the plan is established, is should be shared with all leaders in your ministry so that discipline is consistent. This is particularly important, again, for children of divorce who may already be living in two different homes with two very different discipline plans.

Second, you need address the issue of when you will go to the parent with discipline issues. I believe that, wherever possible, you need a plan that applies to all children in your ministry but also leaves room for grace and common sense in individual circumstances. In other words, I would discourage any plan which singles out children of divorce and treats them differently than the rest of the kids in the class. On the other hand, I would also discourage any plan which does not account for what me going on in a child’s life (whether divorce or something else) and allow for grace in those circumstances. This is a fine line to walk and requires, first and foremost, that you have a ministry where the adults are invested in the children’s lives to the point where they will know what is going on.

So, where does that leave us when it comes to traditional children’s ministry and behavior issues specifically with the child of divorce. I think it means that you need a discipline plan where getting the parent involved is a last resort (i.e., after you have tried everything else). It also means that you need to know the kids, and the parents, in your ministry. The ultimate question is, “What is the best thing I can do in this circumstance for both the child and the family?” In some cases, that will mean talking to the parents about what is going on. This is, of course, easier to know if you already have a relationship with the parents. In the case of most children of divorce, this will mean dealing with the issue yourself, and many times trying to get to the root cause of the behavior issues.

Above all else, point these kids to Jesus and pray fervently for them. He is much more capable of dealing with their issues and problems than any of us!

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on September 07, 2012.

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I Say, You Say: Feelings! by Tad Carpenter (A Review) http://hope4hurtingkids.com/emotions/say-say-feelings-tad-carpenter-review/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/emotions/say-say-feelings-tad-carpenter-review/#respond Thu, 23 Mar 2017 12:00:27 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1481 About the Book I Say, You Say: Feelings! by Tad Carpenter is a board book for one to three years that will introduce the youngest kids to emotions and how they expressed. Who Is This Book For The book is meant for parents who want to read to their young kids (aged 1-3) and help to teach them about emotions. It would also be great for nurseries and preschool classes. Our Synopsis of the Book This fun little book introduces young kids to concept of emotions and what they look like. It covers basic emotions (though we might quibble with whether or not a couple of the entries are actually emotions) including: Happy Grumpy Silly Sad Excited Sleepy Hurt Love For each emotion, there is a colorful picture and the book follows the following format: I say SAD, you say… Then, as you raise the flap on the second page to find a description of the emotion: CRY! In this instance, the words are accompanied by a green crying crocodile and an empathetic bunny trying to help. Other emotions follow a similar pattern of introducing the word and explaining what the emotion looks like behind the flap. Amazon’s Synopsis Here’s how Amazon describes the book: I say, “Feelings!” You say, “Fun!” Explore the world of emotions with 8 lift-the flaps. These colorful, playful books encourage interactive learning through prediction and repetition; but most importantly, they look really fun. –Dr. Robert Needlman, co-founder of Reach Out and Read and author of Dr. Spock’s Baby Basics With I Say, You Say books, your little ones can: · Understand emotions · Predict outcomes · Learn and play! What We Liked This book is colorful and fun. It is a great introduction for young kids to emotions they will feel and what those emotions look like. I wish I had this book when my kids were little. What We Didn’t Like Don’t get me started on whether or not Sleep is an emotion. 🙂 Seriously though, the only potential downside to this book are the flaps. They are on heavy card stock, but left to their own devices I can see little hands ripping a flap or two off over time, but I wouldn’t let that keep you from adding it to your library. Recommendation One of the greatest things we can do for kids dealing with difficult emotions is to prepare them ahead of time to recognize and name emotions. We recommend I Say, You Say: Feelings! by Tad Carpenter for parents who are interested in helping their kids begin to develop emotional awareness at a young age.

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About the Book

I Say, You Say: Feelings! by Tad Carpenter is a board book for one to three years that will introduce the youngest kids to emotions and how they expressed.

Who Is This Book For

The book is meant for parents who want to read to their young kids (aged 1-3) and help to teach them about emotions. It would also be great for nurseries and preschool classes.

Our Synopsis of the Book

This fun little book introduces young kids to concept of emotions and what they look like. It covers basic emotions (though we might quibble with whether or not a couple of the entries are actually emotions) including:

  • Happy
  • Grumpy
  • Silly
  • Sad
  • Excited
  • Sleepy
  • Hurt
  • Love

For each emotion, there is a colorful picture and the book follows the following format:

I say SAD, you say…

Then, as you raise the flap on the second page to find a description of the emotion:

CRY!

In this instance, the words are accompanied by a green crying crocodile and an empathetic bunny trying to help. Other emotions follow a similar pattern of introducing the word and explaining what the emotion looks like behind the flap.

Amazon’s Synopsis

Here’s how Amazon describes the book:

I say, “Feelings!” You say, “Fun!” Explore the world of emotions with 8 lift-the flaps.

These colorful, playful books encourage interactive learning through prediction and repetition; but most importantly, they look really fun. –Dr. Robert Needlman, co-founder of Reach Out and Read and author of Dr. Spock’s Baby Basics

With I Say, You Say books, your little ones can:

· Understand emotions
· Predict outcomes
· Learn and play!

What We Liked

This book is colorful and fun. It is a great introduction for young kids to emotions they will feel and what those emotions look like. I wish I had this book when my kids were little.

What We Didn’t Like

Don’t get me started on whether or not Sleep is an emotion. 🙂 Seriously though, the only potential downside to this book are the flaps. They are on heavy card stock, but left to their own devices I can see little hands ripping a flap or two off over time, but I wouldn’t let that keep you from adding it to your library.

Recommendation

One of the greatest things we can do for kids dealing with difficult emotions is to prepare them ahead of time to recognize and name emotions. We recommend I Say, You Say: Feelings! by Tad Carpenter for parents who are interested in helping their kids begin to develop emotional awareness at a young age.

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Culture Shock: The Need to Develop Relationships http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-relationships/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-relationships/#respond Wed, 22 Mar 2017 12:00:27 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1234 This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce. The Need for Relationships As people who work with children we understand it is important to connect with the children in our care. By connecting with the children we build relationships with them. As adults in the religious realm we know the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We build relationships with the parents in our ministry. We work on our relationships with our family, with neighbors and with other children’s ministers. I think we can agree that healthy relationships are important in our world today. For some children though, relationships with those they love have been destroyed or marred. These are the children of divorce and/or separation. The very people they trust the most have hurt them deeply. The people they desire to have a relationship with the most, their parents, have bitterly disappointed many of them. When these kids come to church, it is so very important to work on rebuilding that trust and forming relationships with them. Let me give you an example. Currently I’m working with a couple that is reconciling. They have been separated and are in the process of rebuilding their relationship and their marriage. The wife has an elementary age child by a different father. The daughter seems to be fairly well adjusted. She gets along well with her step dad. Every time the parents see me they hug me. I can read children pretty well, and I have noticed this young girl hangs back when all this hugging is going on. Her parents really want her to hug me, but she has problems hugging me because she and I don’t have a relationship. It will take time for us to form this relationship. And. it will take longer than it otherwise might, because I only get to see her every other weekend. Most children are eager to reach out to anyone they consider a “teacher”. They laugh and squeal and want to show you something or share what has happened since the last time they saw you. When my (Wayne) son started playing T-ball at age five, he called all of the coaches and the mother who ran the dugout “teacher” and treated them the same way. As a children’s minister, you likely know how eager these kids are for your time, for your attention, and to develop a relationship with you. However, the culture shock some of you may experience with the child of divorce is the difficulty you will have in actually forming those relationships. These children hang back and can be resistant to forming relationships. You may have to “work harder” to demonstrate that you are worthy of forming a relationship with. Remember, they are still coming to grips with the fact that their deepest and most trusted relationships (those with mom and dad) have been forever altered. For children of divorce, when you can provide a healthy demonstration of care and love, then you can move them toward a trusting relationship with you. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to cultivate these relationships but they are so worth it. Let’s face it; many of these kids face really crazy relationships outside the walls of your church. Many times they face an ever-changing landscape when it comes to relationships with the adults in their lives. We have to make a conscious effort to reach them inside the church, and we must stay dedicated enough to stick it out for the long haul. Never assume that a relationship is impossible just because a child is resistant to forming a relationship with. Continue to love on that child and put in the hard work, and you will be amazed at the lasting relationship which can form between you. How We Build Relationships in DC4K When I train leaders for DC4K [DivorceCare for Kids] I tell them the three most important words for having a successful DC4K are “Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!” Some of things leaders do to help build strong relationships in DC4K are: Always have friendly warm expressions and smiling faces when children enter the room. Kids can “catch” your feel good expressions through mirror neurons in the brain. Provide connecting rituals such as hello rituals and special goodbye handshakes. Use the games and activities suggested in the Leader’s Manual that help build relationships with other children in the group. The adults take part in the relationship building games in the kid’s Activity Books. Provide activities where kids can role play talking to their parents about the divorce and consequently help them deepen their relationships with each parent Set up a “relational environment” where children can connect to the church environment. These are caring spaces, caring places, and small areas that promote connections with other children. In these spaces kids feel safe, comfortable and nurtured. Leaders learn each child’s first and last name. Even if siblings have different last names, each child’s last name is used. Leader’s use kid’s names often. Share stories from the Bible that teach children about trust, connections and relationship building with God and Christ. How to Build Relationships with Children of Divorce in a Traditional Children’s Ministry Setting [...]

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This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce.

The Need for Relationships

As people who work with children we understand it is important to connect with the children in our care. By connecting with the children we build relationships with them. As adults in the religious realm we know the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We build relationships with the parents in our ministry. We work on our relationships with our family, with neighbors and with other children’s ministers. I think we can agree that healthy relationships are important in our world today.

For some children though, relationships with those they love have been destroyed or marred. These are the children of divorce and/or separation. The very people they trust the most have hurt them deeply. The people they desire to have a relationship with the most, their parents, have bitterly disappointed many of them. When these kids come to church, it is so very important to work on rebuilding that trust and forming relationships with them.

Let me give you an example. Currently I’m working with a couple that is reconciling. They have been separated and are in the process of rebuilding their relationship and their marriage. The wife has an elementary age child by a different father. The daughter seems to be fairly well adjusted. She gets along well with her step dad. Every time the parents see me they hug me. I can read children pretty well, and I have noticed this young girl hangs back when all this hugging is going on. Her parents really want her to hug me, but she has problems hugging me because she and I don’t have a relationship. It will take time for us to form this relationship. And. it will take longer than it otherwise might, because I only get to see her every other weekend.

Most children are eager to reach out to anyone they consider a “teacher”. They laugh and squeal and want to show you something or share what has happened since the last time they saw you. When my (Wayne) son started playing T-ball at age five, he called all of the coaches and the mother who ran the dugout “teacher” and treated them the same way. As a children’s minister, you likely know how eager these kids are for your time, for your attention, and to develop a relationship with you.

However, the culture shock some of you may experience with the child of divorce is the difficulty you will have in actually forming those relationships. These children hang back and can be resistant to forming relationships. You may have to “work harder” to demonstrate that you are worthy of forming a relationship with. Remember, they are still coming to grips with the fact that their deepest and most trusted relationships (those with mom and dad) have been forever altered.

For children of divorce, when you can provide a healthy demonstration of care and love, then you can move them toward a trusting relationship with you. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time to cultivate these relationships but they are so worth it. Let’s face it; many of these kids face really crazy relationships outside the walls of your church. Many times they face an ever-changing landscape when it comes to relationships with the adults in their lives. We have to make a conscious effort to reach them inside the church, and we must stay dedicated enough to stick it out for the long haul. Never assume that a relationship is impossible just because a child is resistant to forming a relationship with. Continue to love on that child and put in the hard work, and you will be amazed at the lasting relationship which can form between you.

How We Build Relationships in DC4K

When I train leaders for DC4K [DivorceCare for Kids] I tell them the three most important words for having a successful DC4K are

“Relationship, Relationship, Relationship!”

Some of things leaders do to help build strong relationships in DC4K are:

  • Always have friendly warm expressions and smiling faces when children enter the room. Kids can “catch” your feel good expressions through mirror neurons in the brain.
  • Provide connecting rituals such as hello rituals and special goodbye handshakes.
  • Use the games and activities suggested in the Leader’s Manual that help build relationships with other children in the group.
  • The adults take part in the relationship building games in the kid’s Activity Books.
  • Provide activities where kids can role play talking to their parents about the divorce and consequently help them deepen their relationships with each parent
  • Set up a “relational environment” where children can connect to the church environment. These are caring spaces, caring places, and small areas that promote connections with other children. In these spaces kids feel safe, comfortable and nurtured.
  • Leaders learn each child’s first and last name. Even if siblings have different last names, each child’s last name is used. Leader’s use kid’s names often.
  • Share stories from the Bible that teach children about trust, connections and relationship building with God and Christ.

How to Build Relationships with Children of Divorce in a Traditional Children’s Ministry Setting

Relationship is not a new concept to children’s ministers and pastors. It is our bread and butter. We strive to build relationship. We want relationship between leaders and children in our churches. We want to help the kids in our churches to build relationships with one another. And, more important than either of those, we want the children in our ministry to develop a life-long relationship with their God and Savior. None of that changes when we start to talk about, children of divorce, but our methods might need some tweaking.

As we discussed earlier in this article, children of divorce will not form new relationships as easily as other kids. They are understandably gun shy about letting someone else into their hearts. Their innocence when it comes to loving relationships has been shattered. Their parents – the primary models for what a loving relationship should be – have called it quits. In their minds, and in their hearts, all relationships are suspect. Given that our principal goal in children’s ministry should revolve around a child’s relationship with Christ, we must give special attention to helping children of divorce to regain a trust in forming relationships. If they have trouble entering into a new relationship with you (a seen and known entity), how much more will they struggle to form a relationship with their Heavenly Father? So, what can those of us in a traditional children’s ministry setting do to foster these relationships?

1. Know your kids. If you don’t know what the kids in your group, or your ministry, are going through, you may not know that a child is struggling to form relationships because they are dealing with their parents’ divorce. You have to take the time to get to know the kids in your ministry well. If you have “too many” kids or think “there’s no way I can get to know them all well,” then you’re probably right. If you have so many kids that you personally can’t form a deep bond with each one, that just means you need more volunteers so that each leader can develop that sort of deep relationships with the kids they are discipling.

2. Make a long-term commitment. In many children’s ministries, kids are passed from leader to leader on weekly basis, or as kids move up in years, they get new leaders. Make a commitment to stick with and disciple a group of kids for the long-term. For children of divorce, it can take months or more before they even begin to think about building a relationship. This, of course, takes leaders and volunteers who are willing to make a long-term commitment to the ministry. The investment, in terms of time, is steep, but the payoff is worth it as you watch these kids bond with their leaders and form life-long friendships.

3. Foster an environment that champions and celebrates relationship. Which is more important to you in your ministry: That you have a vibrant program in which kids memorize scripture and they all seem to really be writing God’s Word on their hearts? or That you have an environment where kids and leaders speak into one another’s hearts and share the love of Christ with one another?

Both are, of course, critically important, but in the end, knowledge which cannot be lived out in relationship to other Christians and in relationship to God is useless. Relationships give us an opportunity to practice biblical love, and as 1 Corinthians 13 is very clear, without love the rest of it is useless!

Preaching the Word to kids is, of course, vitally important, but build in time to your lesson for relationships to form naturally. Play games and plan activities that encourage kids to work together with each other, and with their leaders, to allow opportunities for relationships to blossom. Don’t cram Sunday morning so full of “activities” that there is no time to talk about what is going on in a child’s life.

4. Above all else, point every child, and particularly the child of divorce, to the one relationship in their life that they can count on no matter what else happens – their relationship with God. God, our Heavenly Father, is the same yesterday, today and always. He does not change. His love for us does not rise and fall like the tide. He loves us in spite of all of our shortcomings and always will. He will never forsake us and never leave us. Children of divorce, in particular, need to understand that unlike human relationships which can fail, our relationship with God can never fail because God has promised it won’t and God always keeps His promises.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on August 31, 2012.

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Hope 4 Hurting Kids Chat Rooms http://hope4hurtingkids.com/admin/hope-4-hurting-kids-chat-rooms/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/admin/hope-4-hurting-kids-chat-rooms/#respond Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:00:21 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1476 We are excited here at Hope 4 Hurting Kids today to announce the official launch of our Chat Rooms for helping kids and teens to deal with difficult issues and emotions. At Hope 4 Hurting Kids, we exist to help two distinct groups of people: Young people who are experiencing hurt, pain and adversity; and Adults who work with and love those kids (this includes parents, teachers, children’s and youth ministry workers, coaches, grandparents, friends and anyone else who cares for these kids and wants to help). These chat rooms are our attempt to offer hurting kids a vehicles for talking to others about the issues they are facing, finding others who are in similar circumstances and getting help from caring adults. To that end, we have introduced chat rooms covering the following categories: Abuse & Neglect Anger Anxiety & Fear Bullying Coping Skills Cutting & Self-Harm Depression & Sadness Divorce & Modern Families Domestic Violence Eating Disorders & Body Image Emotions (General) Foster & Adoptive Families Grief Parent & Family Issues Sexual Abuse & Rape Substance Abuse (Drugs & Alcohol) Stress Suicide Just Need to Talk As word spreads and these chat rooms grow more popular, we hope that a community of hope and support will form surrounding these rooms. Additionally, while the rooms are not monitored 24/7, we do check them frequently. So, if no one’s around feel free to leave a question or comment and someone will get back to you in the room. Due to the sensitive nature of the issues being discussed in these rooms, we have developed some strict guidelines for their use, this and other information can be found on the Hope 4 Hurting Kids Chat Room Page. Whether you are a young person dealing with life’s difficulties, a parent who have questions about your hurting kids or a caring adult who just wants to help, we invite you to participate in our chat rooms and let your voice be heard.

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We are excited here at Hope 4 Hurting Kids today to announce the official launch of our Chat Rooms for helping kids and teens to deal with difficult issues and emotions.

At Hope 4 Hurting Kids, we exist to help two distinct groups of people:

  1. Young people who are experiencing hurt, pain and adversity; and
  2. Adults who work with and love those kids (this includes parents, teachers, children’s and youth ministry workers, coaches, grandparents, friends and anyone else who cares for these kids and wants to help).

These chat rooms are our attempt to offer hurting kids a vehicles for talking to others about the issues they are facing, finding others who are in similar circumstances and getting help from caring adults. To that end, we have introduced chat rooms covering the following categories:

As word spreads and these chat rooms grow more popular, we hope that a community of hope and support will form surrounding these rooms. Additionally, while the rooms are not monitored 24/7, we do check them frequently. So, if no one’s around feel free to leave a question or comment and someone will get back to you in the room.

Due to the sensitive nature of the issues being discussed in these rooms, we have developed some strict guidelines for their use, this and other information can be found on the Hope 4 Hurting Kids Chat Room Page. Whether you are a young person dealing with life’s difficulties, a parent who have questions about your hurting kids or a caring adult who just wants to help, we invite you to participate in our chat rooms and let your voice be heard.

The post Hope 4 Hurting Kids Chat Rooms appeared first on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

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Culture Shock: Why Mixed Age Groups Work for Children of Divorce http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/mixed-age-groups-children-divorce/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/mixed-age-groups-children-divorce/#respond Mon, 20 Mar 2017 12:00:06 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1237 This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce. Why Mixed Age Groups Matter for Children of Divorce Many times when parents bring their children to church as soon as the family hits the front door of the church everyone separates. Each child goes into a different classroom, and the adults may even go to a different building for their time of worship. While I understand there are good reasons for this type of arrangement, for the child of divorce this can be a daunting experience. The majority of couples heading toward a divorce have pulled away from the church and, at the very least, their attendance becomes sporadic. Some people after a divorce find it difficult to attend the same church they had as a couple, so they will find a new church to attend. So the entire “church thing” can be a frightening experience to children of divorce. During a divorce many siblings learn to rely on each other. Some older siblings become a “surrogate parent” to younger kids. For children who live in two homes, or who visit the other home periodically, they will turn to each other during travel times. When they come to church, they have already lost a parent and in most churches we separate the children from the only other person they feel they can rely on – their sibling that travels with them. Many children of divorce experience learning delays or jumps in their learning levels. Learning may stop; social development lags; and many revert back to younger years and behaviors. It is not unusual for a child to lose an entire school year during the divorce process. Other children will turn to their schoolwork in hope that it will impress the parent that left. Due to more responsibilities, some children will become older than his or her years. Because of these issues when ministering to children of divorce, I decided when children came to DC4K I wanted them to have the optimal learning experience. I wanted them to be able to heal in a stress free place; to feel safe and even comfortable and to feel family within the group. Mixed age grouping seemed to be the solution to accommodate these issues. How We Accommodated Children of Divorce By Using Mixed Age Groups in DC4K Mixed age grouping is when all elementary age children are in one room. The rooms need to be a good size and stations are set up to accommodate smaller gatherings within the room. For some churches, several mixed age groups will need to be set up, as children from divorce should not be placed in large groups. Usually for DC4K it is recommended the group not go over twenty children in one room; fifteen is even better. Remember these kids are hurting children and the agenda is to facilitate healing of their hearts and to draw them into the Kingdom. For children with behavior problems, because smaller groups feel safer, they lessen the need to act out. Younger siblings can see their older brother or sister. The surrogate parent child can keep an eye on their younger siblings to make sure they are okay. It doesn’t mean they have to spend all their time doing the same thing but just being in the room together accommodates some of their fears and worries. The third grade boy, who stopped reading when his dad left, and is now behind in his learning, can move to the table where second grade boys are working in their activity books. The second grade girl who is wiser and older than she should be can migrate to a fifth grade girl where she can feel accepted and comfortable in her new role. Leaders then have an opportunity to minister effectively to these children when the kids are enjoying their place in the DC4K family. Many DC4K leaders have found that older children volunteer to tell their story when younger children are present. Perhaps they don’t feel threatened by a group of younger kids. Younger children who get to serve snack to an older child in the room find their self-worth shining through. Self-respect and respect for others grows in mixed age groups. Ministering to each other flourishes in a healthy family environment. Mixed age grouping mimics that healthy family environment. Many children will be thrust into a stepfamily long before they are ready. In this new family arrangement while the third grade boy had been used to being the oldest child, now he has older brothers in the house. The baby of the single parent family now might very well be one of the older kids in the family. After being in a mixed age group at DC4K, they will feel more secure being with older or younger children. Children with no siblings in their family will find an entire group of DC4K siblings. Many will take on the responsibility of adopting a younger child as their brother or sister in the group. This gives everyone the freedom to minister to children of different ages within their DC4K family. How You Can Utilize Mixed Age Groups in a Traditional Children’s Ministry Setting While DC4K was written [...]

The post Culture Shock: Why Mixed Age Groups Work for Children of Divorce appeared first on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

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This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce.

Why Mixed Age Groups Matter for Children of Divorce

Many times when parents bring their children to church as soon as the family hits the front door of the church everyone separates. Each child goes into a different classroom, and the adults may even go to a different building for their time of worship. While I understand there are good reasons for this type of arrangement, for the child of divorce this can be a daunting experience.

The majority of couples heading toward a divorce have pulled away from the church and, at the very least, their attendance becomes sporadic. Some people after a divorce find it difficult to attend the same church they had as a couple, so they will find a new church to attend. So the entire “church thing” can be a frightening experience to children of divorce.

During a divorce many siblings learn to rely on each other. Some older siblings become a “surrogate parent” to younger kids. For children who live in two homes, or who visit the other home periodically, they will turn to each other during travel times. When they come to church, they have already lost a parent and in most churches we separate the children from the only other person they feel they can rely on – their sibling that travels with them.

Many children of divorce experience learning delays or jumps in their learning levels. Learning may stop; social development lags; and many revert back to younger years and behaviors. It is not unusual for a child to lose an entire school year during the divorce process. Other children will turn to their schoolwork in hope that it will impress the parent that left. Due to more responsibilities, some children will become older than his or her years.

Because of these issues when ministering to children of divorce, I decided when children came to DC4K I wanted them to have the optimal learning experience. I wanted them to be able to heal in a stress free place; to feel safe and even comfortable and to feel family within the group. Mixed age grouping seemed to be the solution to accommodate these issues.

How We Accommodated Children of Divorce By Using Mixed Age Groups in DC4K

Mixed age grouping is when all elementary age children are in one room. The rooms need to be a good size and stations are set up to accommodate smaller gatherings within the room. For some churches, several mixed age groups will need to be set up, as children from divorce should not be placed in large groups. Usually for DC4K it is recommended the group not go over twenty children in one room; fifteen is even better. Remember these kids are hurting children and the agenda is to facilitate healing of their hearts and to draw them into the Kingdom. For children with behavior problems, because smaller groups feel safer, they lessen the need to act out.

Younger siblings can see their older brother or sister. The surrogate parent child can keep an eye on their younger siblings to make sure they are okay. It doesn’t mean they have to spend all their time doing the same thing but just being in the room together accommodates some of their fears and worries. The third grade boy, who stopped reading when his dad left, and is now behind in his learning, can move to the table where second grade boys are working in their activity books. The second grade girl who is wiser and older than she should be can migrate to a fifth grade girl where she can feel accepted and comfortable in her new role. Leaders then have an opportunity to minister effectively to these children when the kids are enjoying their place in the DC4K family.

Many DC4K leaders have found that older children volunteer to tell their story when younger children are present. Perhaps they don’t feel threatened by a group of younger kids. Younger children who get to serve snack to an older child in the room find their self-worth shining through. Self-respect and respect for others grows in mixed age groups. Ministering to each other flourishes in a healthy family environment. Mixed age grouping mimics that healthy family environment.

Many children will be thrust into a stepfamily long before they are ready. In this new family arrangement while the third grade boy had been used to being the oldest child, now he has older brothers in the house. The baby of the single parent family now might very well be one of the older kids in the family. After being in a mixed age group at DC4K, they will feel more secure being with older or younger children.

Children with no siblings in their family will find an entire group of DC4K siblings. Many will take on the responsibility of adopting a younger child as their brother or sister in the group. This gives everyone the freedom to minister to children of different ages within their DC4K family.

How You Can Utilize Mixed Age Groups in a Traditional Children’s Ministry Setting

While DC4K was written specifically to accommodate mixed age groups in its very structure, you may find it harder to incorporate mixed aged groups in your traditional children’s ministry setting. That said, there are some things you can do (these suggestions are based on a typical large group / small group setting but can be easily adapted to other settings).

1. Encourage Mixed-Age Interactions: Sometimes, the kids in our ministries will gravitate to other kids their own age. Sometimes this is because we encourage it by placing them in age based small groups, and other times it is just natural for kids to desire to be around children their own age. Encourage the children in your ministry to interact with children older and younger than them. Encourage older kids to help younger kids with games and questions. Encourage younger children to seek out an answer from an older child before they approach an adult volunteer. Encourage kids to play together before or after service regardless of their ages.

2. Mixed Age Large Groups: Even if your small groups are segregated by age group, allow the kids to interact in the large group setting. Let siblings sit together, so long as they want to and are not disruptive. Children of divorce will find comfort in close proximity to their siblings.

3. Utilize Older Children: Allow older children to assist you in serving younger children. This allows them to spend time with their younger siblings and also gives them control over something. Younger kids will love interacting with, and learning from, the older kids in your ministry.

4. Mixed Age Group Games: Sometimes it is easier, and quicker, to play games based on age groups – “all the first graders get together!” However, consider creating teams which include children of all ages for things like trivia contests or relay races. For children of divorce, this will allow them to be on the same team as an older or younger sibling.

5. Create a “Family” Environment: If we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, then we are all brothers and sisters. What better place exists to show children of divorce what real family should look like? Treat each other like members of the same family with one Heavenly Father rather than adopting a teacher/student type relationship. Help children to understand that they should treat one another like siblings. Create an environment where kids will feel safe and welcome.

6. Don’t Be Rigid: I know that in children’s ministry when you bend the rules for one kid every parent will want you to do the same thing for them. If your options are bend the rule to allow the child of divorce to feel safe and be able to participate or stick to your guns and rules, choose love and make an exception for the child of divorce. We would do as much for a child who lost a parent to death, why not do the same for a child of divorce?

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on August 24, 2012.

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Culture Shock: Giving Children of Divorce Power Through Choices http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-giving-children-divorce-power-through-choices/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-giving-children-divorce-power-through-choices/#respond Fri, 17 Mar 2017 12:00:42 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1239 This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce. Choice and the Child of Divorce For the child of divorce, it is important to allow them to make choices. Choices empower a child who feels like everything is out of their control. Most of us, as parents and children’s ministry leaders, agree that kids shouldn’t make major decisions about their lives. However, for the child of divorce, whose very life has been interrupted by the crisis of divorce, it is different than for a child who has a loving mother and father in the home. Children of divorce feel powerless and vulnerable during and after their parents have separated. For many children of divorce not only have they lost the comfort of a loving home and family, they may have lost both parents to the divorce war. While having distracted parents may be temporary until the divorce battle has been waged and settled, it is none-the-less very disturbing to the child. Children need adults they can trust to help them navigate through a crisis and the very adults they need are the ones that have caused the crisis. Choices are different than making a decision because a decision is something that one chooses or makes up his or her mind about after they consider all of the choices. For children of divorce, the adults in their lives have already made the decisions about their life and to the child there doesn’t seem to be any choices left. Decisions that have been made for the child of divorce might include: Who I get to live with. How much time I get to spend at the other parent’s home. I really miss my other parent and I want to spend more time with them. Moving to a new neighborhood without my other parent being a part of my life. Moving to a new school and having to leave all my old friends behind. The fact that I don’t get to see my other grandparents and cousins as much as before the divorce. Having to drop all after school activities. Having to face the long afternoon by myself after school. Since the list above can be endless for the child of divorce, you can understand why they would feel helpless in most areas of their lives. Giving them choices, and permission to have some control over their lives, allows them hope during the time of crisis. Keep in mind that for many children the disruption of their family and adjusting to divorce will go on for many years. How We Incorporated Choices into Divorce Care for Kids In DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids, we accommodate the need to make choices in several ways. First of all, I encourage the leaders to be aware of the need to make choices. Every child that enters the class has made a choice to attend. They may not have made it willingly, but they have made a choice. Simply by calling attention to the fact the child came through the door goes a long way. Saying something like, “Hey Suzi, you made the choice to come to DC4K today. Wa-Hoo you did it!” is a great way to acknowledge that choice as you move them into choosing how they want to be greeted. Greeting We also encourage all leaders to develop a way to let the kids choose how they want to be greeted. In one of my DC4K groups we had a chart with five choices on how the kids wanted to be greeted along with how to indicate their choice. The choices included Handshake, High Five, Fist Bump, Hug and I Don’t Want To Be Touched. Feelings Chart After the greeting, and upon entering the group, one of the first choices is to look at the Herby’s Feeling Chart and post a note with their name on it on the feeling face that most represents how they feel. The freedom to really express their true feelings to a trusting adult is very empowering for many children. Some kids will go and move their post it note as their feelings change during the session. Others will remove their post it note at the end of the session before their parent arrives. Stations (more on the station concept in future posts) Since divorced parents are emotionally overwrought, and some are barely surviving, the kids will “drift” into DC4K. In other words, rarely do the kids all enter the room at the same time. Some will be early because their parent can’t wait to get to DivorceCare to talk and socialize about their week. Others will run horribly late as they try to maneuver jobs, baby sitters, traffic and life in general. Stations, or small areas of activities, are set up to allow the child who has been rushed through several environments from early morning and throughout the day until they arrive at DC4K. Some of these kids will have gotten up at home as early as 5:00 a.m. taken to a relative or friends home until before school care opens. From before school care they go to school and after school back to child care or a different after school care club [...]

The post Culture Shock: Giving Children of Divorce Power Through Choices appeared first on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

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This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce.

Choice and the Child of Divorce

For the child of divorce, it is important to allow them to make choices. Choices empower a child who feels like everything is out of their control. Most of us, as parents and children’s ministry leaders, agree that kids shouldn’t make major decisions about their lives. However, for the child of divorce, whose very life has been interrupted by the crisis of divorce, it is different than for a child who has a loving mother and father in the home. Children of divorce feel powerless and vulnerable during and after their parents have separated.

For many children of divorce not only have they lost the comfort of a loving home and family, they may have lost both parents to the divorce war. While having distracted parents may be temporary until the divorce battle has been waged and settled, it is none-the-less very disturbing to the child. Children need adults they can trust to help them navigate through a crisis and the very adults they need are the ones that have caused the crisis.

Choices are different than making a decision because a decision is something that one chooses or makes up his or her mind about after they consider all of the choices. For children of divorce, the adults in their lives have already made the decisions about their life and to the child there doesn’t seem to be any choices left.

Decisions that have been made for the child of divorce might include:

  • Who I get to live with.
  • How much time I get to spend at the other parent’s home. I really miss my other parent and I want to spend more time with them.
  • Moving to a new neighborhood without my other parent being a part of my life.
  • Moving to a new school and having to leave all my old friends behind.
  • The fact that I don’t get to see my other grandparents and cousins as much as before the divorce.
  • Having to drop all after school activities.
  • Having to face the long afternoon by myself after school.

Since the list above can be endless for the child of divorce, you can understand why they would feel helpless in most areas of their lives. Giving them choices, and permission to have some control over their lives, allows them hope during the time of crisis. Keep in mind that for many children the disruption of their family and adjusting to divorce will go on for many years.

How We Incorporated Choices into Divorce Care for Kids

In DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids, we accommodate the need to make choices in several ways. First of all, I encourage the leaders to be aware of the need to make choices. Every child that enters the class has made a choice to attend. They may not have made it willingly, but they have made a choice. Simply by calling attention to the fact the child came through the door goes a long way. Saying something like, “Hey Suzi, you made the choice to come to DC4K today. Wa-Hoo you did it!” is a great way to acknowledge that choice as you move them into choosing how they want to be greeted.

Greeting

We also encourage all leaders to develop a way to let the kids choose how they want to be greeted. In one of my DC4K groups we had a chart with five choices on how the kids wanted to be greeted along with how to indicate their choice. The choices included Handshake, High Five, Fist Bump, Hug and I Don’t Want To Be Touched.

Feelings Chart

After the greeting, and upon entering the group, one of the first choices is to look at the Herby’s Feeling Chart and post a note with their name on it on the feeling face that most represents how they feel. The freedom to really express their true feelings to a trusting adult is very empowering for many children. Some kids will go and move their post it note as their feelings change during the session. Others will remove their post it note at the end of the session before their parent arrives.

Stations (more on the station concept in future posts)

Since divorced parents are emotionally overwrought, and some are barely surviving, the kids will “drift” into DC4K. In other words, rarely do the kids all enter the room at the same time. Some will be early because their parent can’t wait to get to DivorceCare to talk and socialize about their week. Others will run horribly late as they try to maneuver jobs, baby sitters, traffic and life in general.

Stations, or small areas of activities, are set up to allow the child who has been rushed through several environments from early morning and throughout the day until they arrive at DC4K. Some of these kids will have gotten up at home as early as 5:00 a.m. taken to a relative or friends home until before school care opens. From before school care they go to school and after school back to child care or a different after school care club and then possibly picked up by the other parent, friend or relative and brought to DC4K.

Some kids will want to get right into activities while others will need an opportunity to socialize at the snack station. Some kids will want to express themselves through the arts or crafts. Others might want to connect at the Activity Book station while others will want to be alone and just sit back, relax and journal their feelings. By allowing children to enter and choose a small station children don’t feel embarrassed by being late yet again.

In the middle of the session there is a second station or small group time. New arts, crafts, snacks and other activities are set up. Even choosing how many stations one wants to do is a choice. Some children will only make it through a couple of stations while other children will choose to take part in all of the stations set up.

Jobs

Children who contribute to their environment feel more connected. In DC4K every child is encouraged sign up for a job. Job descriptions are posted so the child is fully aware of what they are expected to do.

Activities that do not give children a choice

While the children have many choices in DC4K, there are some things that are not choices. However, even within these activities, there are still choices that the child can make.

  • Sitting in circle time is required but how you participate can be a choice.
  • Listening to the story is not a choice but how you position yourself is a choice. In my group you can sit, grab a blanket or a pillow, not both and only one kid to a blanket is allowed. You can lean up against a wall, lean on a teacher, or recline back on a pillow.
  • Participating during the music or movement is not a choice but singing or not singing is a choice; moving, stretching or standing still are choices.

Every DC4K group is different. In one church I was in, our DC4K class used the adult choir room. After each session everything had to be put away. All items on the wall had to be filed. Tables had to be taken down, stored and adult chairs lined up; music stand set up and the piano uncovered. The kids in our group had a choice of how or if they wanted to help the leaders after DC4K. Most kids wanted to stay and participate in “setting up the choir room”.

Suggestions for Allowing for Choices in a Traditional Children’s Ministry Setting

Many traditional children’s ministry classes are larger than a DC4K class, it may seem almost impossible to ensure that children are given choices. However, if you are intentional about building choices into your normal routine, you can accommodate these children of divorce. And, frankly, choices aren’t a bad thing for any child, they are just absolutely essential for children of divorce.

Let’s think about a typical large group/small group format (which many churches are using these days). If your church uses a different format, you can likely adapt these suggestions to your format as well. Here are some ideas for allowing choices:

1. Greeting Time: In our ministry, we start about 5 minutes after “adult church,” and kids usually start to show up about 20 minutes before. That is their free time. We do have some basic safety rules (kids aren’t allowed to run or leave the room), but other than those they are free to choose to do what they want. Some kids want to chat with their friends, some want to interact with their leaders, and most want to grab something out of the game cabinet and play. Even within the game cabinet, we have choices. There are games, things to build with, things to be creative with. There are things to do with other children and solo activities. There are games which require some intelligence and some games which do not. There are physical activities (like Twister) and less physical activities (like checkers). For those 5 or 25 minutes, the kids are in control (within reason) and get to choose what they want to do.

2. Prayer Time: As leaders in the children’s ministry, we gather before the service to pray for our time together for the day’s lesson. If a child wants to, they are welcome to choose to be part of that prayer circle.

3. Large Group Time: This tends to be one of those times where it seems unlikely, or unwise, to give kids any choices, but you still can. Let kids pick who they want to sit with. This doesn’t mean you can’t separate those two kids who seem to “feed off” one another and cause problems, but give them the initial choice. In terms of children of divorce, this also helps with siblings who might feel like they need to be near their older or younger sibling.

4. Small Group Time: Small Group should be a time ripe with discipleship and relationship building. As such, the opportunity to afford children choices should come naturally. If you have multiple small groups, you might give the child a choice about which group they want to be a part of. I would discourage bouncing them from one group to another and this will mimic the bouncing around that they do in their family life. Within small groups, give children a choice of activities. Assign them jobs within your small group. For example, one child can be in charge of passing our crayons, another can keep track of prayer requests, another can be in charge of collecting offering and so on and so on.

5. Leaving Time: Like Greeting Time, Leaving Time can be a chance for the children in your ministry to make some more choices. Would they like some more small group time? Would they like some time to interact with one another and chat? Don’t feel like you have to structure every second of the time they are in your ministry. That is, of course, valuable time, but sometimes the most value can be found in those unstructured moments that kids choose.

6. Jobs: In addition to small group jobs, there are all other types of jobs in your ministry that children can do to feel like they have power over something. Let one child assist in running the check in system. Have a group of children who help set up the large group teaching. Get kids involved in the large group presentation. Have a child who is in charge of making sure all small groups get the supplies and materials they need. Have one child who helps take attendance. Let some kids assist in the sound booth. Have children be score keepers for any games. The opportunities to give kids choices about how they will contribute to your ministry are limited only by your imagination.

7. Special Ministry Opportunities: In addition to normal weekly opportunities, you can create other special opportunities for these kids to serve. For example, my church has a kids’ worship team that helps with worship music during the large group. They meet once every other week to go over songs and motions and, as far as I can tell, have a really good time. Keep in mind though as you plan these events that many children of divorce may not be able to attend due to custody arrangements, etc. Nonetheless, they do represent an additional choice for the child of divorce.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on August 17, 2012.

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I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas (A Review) http://hope4hurtingkids.com/emotions/i-miss-you-a-first-look-at-death-by-pat-thomas-a-review/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/emotions/i-miss-you-a-first-look-at-death-by-pat-thomas-a-review/#respond Thu, 16 Mar 2017 12:00:40 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1464 About the Book I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas is part of the “A First Look At…Book” designed to help kids in Kindergarten through 3rd grade cope with different events and circumstances they may find themselves in. Who Is This Book For The book is meant for kids who have experienced the death of someone special in their lives. The targeted age group is kindergarten through 3rd grade though we think it would be beneficial if read to younger kids and even for slightly older elementary aged kids who could read through it themselves. Our Synopsis of the Book The book covers the basics of what death is: “When someone dies their body stops working – they stop breathing and their heart stops beating. They can’t think or feel anymore. They don’t eat or sleep.” As well as more profound questions about what happens after people die “Every culture has different beliefs about what happens after a person dies.” Is also addresses why people die, how it makes us feel, saying goodbye, what a funeral is and the idea that eventually things get easier. There are questions for the kids to consider about their own situation throughout the book as well as helpful suggestions and resources for parents at the back of the book. Amazon’s Synopsis Here’s how Amazon describes the book: When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. This book helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death. Titles in this sensitively presented series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, these books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The story lines are simple and direct―easily accessible to younger children. There are full-color illustrations on every page. What We Liked There is a lot to like about this book. It is frank and informative and covers the basic things kids need to know about death and grief. The book handles more complex issue like “What happens when we die” in a way that will help kids to understand without offending people who hold different views about the question. The way the book handles this issue is a great opportunity for you to discuss what you believe happens after you die (assuming your child is interested in having that conversation). This book packs a lot of great information into a short and accessible book. It is beautifully illustrated in a way that can help the child relate even better to the concepts being shared. What We Didn’t Like There wasn’t a whole lot about this book that we didn’t like. If we had to pick one thing that gave us just a short moment of pause, it was in the very first sentence of the book, Every day someone is born…and every day someone dies. This is consistent with the very direct nature of the book, and absolutely true, but we can envision a circumstance where a child already in pain might read that first sentence and assume they are going to die soon too. That said, if the child makes it past that very first page, the rest of the book provide a very good explanation and why people die that should help to alleviate any fears. On the whole, this is not a major concern and should not detract anyone from adding this book to their library. Recommendation If you have a child (or know a child) who has or will experience the death of a loved one, this is a great book to help them understand what is going on and begin to process the grief they are feeling. It is a great opportunity for parents, grandparents or other important adults in the child’s life to share their grief together and will likely prompt many more questions when read together. It will also be a very beneficial book to older elementary aged kids as they read about death and ponder the questions posed in the book. We highly recommend I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas for any preschool or elementary aged child grieving the death of a loved one.

The post I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas (A Review) appeared first on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

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About the Book

I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas is part of the “A First Look At…Book” designed to help kids in Kindergarten through 3rd grade cope with different events and circumstances they may find themselves in.

Who Is This Book For

The book is meant for kids who have experienced the death of someone special in their lives. The targeted age group is kindergarten through 3rd grade though we think it would be beneficial if read to younger kids and even for slightly older elementary aged kids who could read through it themselves.

Our Synopsis of the Book

The book covers the basics of what death is:

“When someone dies their body stops working – they stop breathing and their heart stops beating. They can’t think or feel anymore. They don’t eat or sleep.”

As well as more profound questions about what happens after people die

“Every culture has different beliefs about what happens after a person dies.”

Is also addresses why people die, how it makes us feel, saying goodbye, what a funeral is and the idea that eventually things get easier. There are questions for the kids to consider about their own situation throughout the book as well as helpful suggestions and resources for parents at the back of the book.

Amazon’s Synopsis

Here’s how Amazon describes the book:

When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. This book helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death. Titles in this sensitively presented series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, these books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The story lines are simple and direct―easily accessible to younger children. There are full-color illustrations on every page.

What We Liked

There is a lot to like about this book. It is frank and informative and covers the basic things kids need to know about death and grief. The book handles more complex issue like “What happens when we die” in a way that will help kids to understand without offending people who hold different views about the question. The way the book handles this issue is a great opportunity for you to discuss what you believe happens after you die (assuming your child is interested in having that conversation). This book packs a lot of great information into a short and accessible book. It is beautifully illustrated in a way that can help the child relate even better to the concepts being shared.

What We Didn’t Like

There wasn’t a whole lot about this book that we didn’t like. If we had to pick one thing that gave us just a short moment of pause, it was in the very first sentence of the book,

Every day someone is born…and every day someone dies.

This is consistent with the very direct nature of the book, and absolutely true, but we can envision a circumstance where a child already in pain might read that first sentence and assume they are going to die soon too. That said, if the child makes it past that very first page, the rest of the book provide a very good explanation and why people die that should help to alleviate any fears. On the whole, this is not a major concern and should not detract anyone from adding this book to their library.

Recommendation

If you have a child (or know a child) who has or will experience the death of a loved one, this is a great book to help them understand what is going on and begin to process the grief they are feeling. It is a great opportunity for parents, grandparents or other important adults in the child’s life to share their grief together and will likely prompt many more questions when read together. It will also be a very beneficial book to older elementary aged kids as they read about death and ponder the questions posed in the book. We highly recommend I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas for any preschool or elementary aged child grieving the death of a loved one.

The post I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas (A Review) appeared first on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

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Culture Shock: The Chaotic Lives of Children of Divorce http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-chaotic-lives-children-divorce/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-chaotic-lives-children-divorce/#respond Wed, 15 Mar 2017 12:00:57 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1241 Chaos and the Child of Divorce Children of divorce live lives marked by chaos and disorder. There are so many things about the divorce that can cause chaos, it is impossible to list them all, but they can include: loss of the non-custodial parent, moving to a new home, going to a new school, financial difficulties, lack of rules and structure at home, increased responsibility, loss of rituals and routines, arguing parents, differing expectations, lack of planning, step-families, lack of consistency and so much more. I (Linda) once received the following correspondence from a leader who had children of divorce in her group: We have two brothers that would much rather run around the room and do everything other than listen to us! They are ages 10 and 8. I’m learning that a lot of times, the kids thrive on chaos and drama. This leader is correct in realizing that children of divorce appear to thrive on chaos. For many that is how they live their lives. The pattern in their brains is “chaos”. There are a number of factors which lead to this chaos. The first factor is that they are generally living with an exhausted and stressed single parent. This can tend to lead to chaos in their daily lives. Secondly, many of these kids are bounced back and forth between two homes, child care, grandparents and other make shift child care arrangements on a daily and weekly basis. Imagine at 6, 9 or 12 years of age having to keep track of where you are supposed to be, who is picking you up from where and when, keeping track of items you will need at so-and-so’s house, making sure your school work is done for the next day when you have spent after school time in 3 different places, keeping track of that message that mom had for dad and making sure it is delivered, and more and more and more! Children who live in chaos, and have their brains wired to be chaotic as a result, bring that chaos along with them wherever they go. This is where their brain learns to feel comfortable. In order to effectively minister to these children of divorce, a children’s ministry leader needs to understand the chaos that marks their world and work hard at helping the child understand what is expected of him or her. How We Planned For This Chaos in Developing Divorce Care for Kids In developing the DC4K curriculum, we recognized that this chaos would be brought into the group. We devised several methods to help deal with this chaos. Following are a few of the ways that we accommodate chaotic kids in DC4K: 1. Routine and Structure: We took into consideration the importance of a consistent routine each week. We encourage DC4K leaders to develop their regular routine and then post it on the wall in several places. The first night the routine is explained and the leaders can point the kids to the timeline/routine. They encourage the kids to keep track of the routine by checking it occasionally throughout the session. Many leaders report that the kids are the ones that keep them on the schedule. The schedule becomes a routine they can depend upon. The routine becomes a structure that is dependable. For seriously chaotic kids, I encourage leaders to make up a smaller individual version of their session schedule, laminate it and give it the child to carry around in their pocket or a chain around the neck. 2. Rituals: Kids in chaos need to be able to connect with their leaders through rituals. After several weeks of a dependable ritual such as a hand shake, fist bump, etc. the ritual will help calm the chaotic feelings. A ritual can feel like a smooth calming under the skin. A goodbye ritual at the end of DC4K gives the kids closure on the session. Many kids don’t get closure in relationships as people come and go in their lives after a divorce, so being able to depend upon a goodbye ritual can also send them out into the world a little calmer and more in control. 3. Rooms: Disorganization on the outside can create or lend to disorganization and chaos in the mind. Supplies need to be organized in an orderly fashion. Decorations need to look organized with not too many bright colors, shapes and graphics. 4. De-stressing Activities: Kids whose lives are full of chaos need ways to de-stress. I developed a flip chart called “Alphabet Stretches” for DC4K. These stretches present two scriptures each week and are full of simple movement activities, stretching and calming breathing activities. The kids laugh and work their way through these stretches and get the Word pumped into their brains at the same time. While we can’t rewire the brains in chaotic kids in a two hour weekly session, we can expose them to a calm environment and show them ways to de-stress themselves and in the long run bring order and calmness to their lives. Here was my suggestion for the situation from the DC4K leader I mentioned at the beginning of this article: When they come in next week, take the two brothers aside either together or separately and say before they ever get started, “Hey guys, seems to me you are not feeling safe at DC4K (it is important to use the exact words SEEMS TO ME. With “seems to me” you are not judging their actions and they are not getting in trouble). Because if you were feeling safe, you would be wanting to take part in everything. Sometimes when people run around acting wild or they don’t listen it’s because they are afraid things will hurt too much and they might have to think about the divorce. But I want you to know you are safe at DC4K. Your feelings are safe too. All of the Safe Keepers want to help you so your feelings won’t hurt so much. So [...]

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Chaos and the Child of Divorce

Children of divorce live lives marked by chaos and disorder. There are so many things about the divorce that can cause chaos, it is impossible to list them all, but they can include: loss of the non-custodial parent, moving to a new home, going to a new school, financial difficulties, lack of rules and structure at home, increased responsibility, loss of rituals and routines, arguing parents, differing expectations, lack of planning, step-families, lack of consistency and so much more.

I (Linda) once received the following correspondence from a leader who had children of divorce in her group:

We have two brothers that would much rather run around the room and do everything other than listen to us! They are ages 10 and 8. I’m learning that a lot of times, the kids thrive on chaos and drama.

This leader is correct in realizing that children of divorce appear to thrive on chaos. For many that is how they live their lives. The pattern in their brains is “chaos”. There are a number of factors which lead to this chaos. The first factor is that they are generally living with an exhausted and stressed single parent. This can tend to lead to chaos in their daily lives. Secondly, many of these kids are bounced back and forth between two homes, child care, grandparents and other make shift child care arrangements on a daily and weekly basis. Imagine at 6, 9 or 12 years of age having to keep track of where you are supposed to be, who is picking you up from where and when, keeping track of items you will need at so-and-so’s house, making sure your school work is done for the next day when you have spent after school time in 3 different places, keeping track of that message that mom had for dad and making sure it is delivered, and more and more and more!

Children who live in chaos, and have their brains wired to be chaotic as a result, bring that chaos along with them wherever they go. This is where their brain learns to feel comfortable. In order to effectively minister to these children of divorce, a children’s ministry leader needs to understand the chaos that marks their world and work hard at helping the child understand what is expected of him or her.

How We Planned For This Chaos in Developing Divorce Care for Kids

In developing the DC4K curriculum, we recognized that this chaos would be brought into the group. We devised several methods to help deal with this chaos. Following are a few of the ways that we accommodate chaotic kids in DC4K:

1. Routine and Structure: We took into consideration the importance of a consistent routine each week. We encourage DC4K leaders to develop their regular routine and then post it on the wall in several places. The first night the routine is explained and the leaders can point the kids to the timeline/routine. They encourage the kids to keep track of the routine by checking it occasionally throughout the session. Many leaders report that the kids are the ones that keep them on the schedule. The schedule becomes a routine they can depend upon. The routine becomes a structure that is dependable.

For seriously chaotic kids, I encourage leaders to make up a smaller individual version of their session schedule, laminate it and give it the child to carry around in their pocket or a chain around the neck.

2. Rituals: Kids in chaos need to be able to connect with their leaders through rituals. After several weeks of a dependable ritual such as a hand shake, fist bump, etc. the ritual will help calm the chaotic feelings. A ritual can feel like a smooth calming under the skin. A goodbye ritual at the end of DC4K gives the kids closure on the session. Many kids don’t get closure in relationships as people come and go in their lives after a divorce, so being able to depend upon a goodbye ritual can also send them out into the world a little calmer and more in control.

3. Rooms: Disorganization on the outside can create or lend to disorganization and chaos in the mind. Supplies need to be organized in an orderly fashion. Decorations need to look organized with not too many bright colors, shapes and graphics.

4. De-stressing Activities: Kids whose lives are full of chaos need ways to de-stress. I developed a flip chart called “Alphabet Stretches” for DC4K. These stretches present two scriptures each week and are full of simple movement activities, stretching and calming breathing activities. The kids laugh and work their way through these stretches and get the Word pumped into their brains at the same time.

While we can’t rewire the brains in chaotic kids in a two hour weekly session, we can expose them to a calm environment and show them ways to de-stress themselves and in the long run bring order and calmness to their lives.

Here was my suggestion for the situation from the DC4K leader I mentioned at the beginning of this article:

When they come in next week, take the two brothers aside either together or separately and say before they ever get started, “Hey guys, seems to me you are not feeling safe at DC4K (it is important to use the exact words SEEMS TO ME. With “seems to me” you are not judging their actions and they are not getting in trouble). Because if you were feeling safe, you would be wanting to take part in everything. Sometimes when people run around acting wild or they don’t listen it’s because they are afraid things will hurt too much and they might have to think about the divorce. But I want you to know you are safe at DC4K. Your feelings are safe too. All of the Safe Keepers want to help you so your feelings won’t hurt so much. So instead of running in this room, what could do that would be safe and helpful?” Wait for their response.

Then you might devise some hand signal system with each of them. They may not realize when they are starting to get out of control so you can clue them with a signal. Ask for their help in developing a system. This will do several things. It will set boundaries for DC4K. It will tell them running has got to stop. It will say you really care for them. If you get stumped by something they say then be honest with them and say, “Hmmm, I’m going to have to take some time to think.” Take a deep breath, say a quick prayer and then think about a different solution. You can even say, “Hmmm, I’m going to have to take some time to think about what you said. You sit here and work on your workbook (or color or whatever) while I go over here and think a minute.”

Calmness, gentleness, perseverance and the love of Christ in you will help to bring a sense of order to your group and to the chaotic brains within your group.

Suggestions for Dealing with Chaos in a Traditional Children’s Ministry Setting

As children’s ministry leaders, we sometimes come to thrive on chaos as well, but it is a controlled chaos. For many of these children of divorce, the chaos that defines their lives is totally out of their control. As a children’s ministry worker that they see every week, we may be one of the most stable things in their turbulent life. There are a number of things you can do in a children’s ministry to help these kids to calm down and live a less chaotic life:

  • The most important thing you can do to help these kids is to point them to God and remind them that God creates order out of chaos. The story of Genesis might be helpful to the child of divorce to see how God created everything out of nothing, order out of disorder, structure out of chaos. He can do the same thing in their lives.
  • Be willing and available to listen. Help them to share what they are feeling and put names on their feelings. Sometimes just talking about it can help to reign in the feelings of chaos.
  • Set boundaries. No matter what a child might tell you, they like boundaries and structure and predictability. You have to understand that the child is going through and be empathetic, but you can’t do away with all boundaries all together.
  • Develop routines. As Linda suggested for DC4K, it is a good idea to build your own rituals with these kids. Great them the same way, or say goodbye the same way, each week. Come up with a secret handshake. What seems like a simple thing to you can become an “anchor” for these kids and something they count on and look forward to.
  • Find opportunities to allow these children to make choices. Many kids feel all power has been taken away from them in the divorce process. Allowing them to make simple choices empowers their brain. However, don’t get mixed up with allowing kids to make choices and allowing then to run amuck. Allowing kids to make choices means the adults are still in control. That means you have the right to say and to project to these kids, for example, that running isn’t going to happen. You say it with your attitude, your demeanor, your words and your boundaries.
  • Follow up with children who stop coming to your ministry. Divorce oftentimes leads to parents abandoning the church or finding a new church. Don’t let the kids in your ministry fall through the cracks because of decisions of their parent(s).

You also must be willing to commit to helping the child for the long-term. Divorce is not something that kids get over and move on from quickly, if ever. They will need to know that you love them and that you are willing to stick it out and help them over the long haul.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on August 10, 2012.

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Foster Care Day One http://hope4hurtingkids.com/modern-families/foster-care-day-one/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/modern-families/foster-care-day-one/#respond Tue, 14 Mar 2017 12:00:27 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1404 Imagine there was a tornado coming at your house. Suddenly and unexpectedly, you have to leave. You have less than five minutes — what do you grab? Unfortunately for children coming into foster care, they may have as little warning that they are entering a devastating emotional storm. Sometimes, even if the county is able to bring over a child’s own clothes and belongings the next day or a week later, the first night in foster care often leaves a child surrounded by strange, alien, unfamiliar items that bring little comfort.  If you can help make them feel welcome, instead of like an unexpected houseguest, that’s a good step in the right direction. Remember, this probably feels like the worst day of this child’s life. Here’s what I suggest you have on hand: A couple blankets and stuffed animal options — You’re probably not going to guess just the right stuffed bear out of all the bears in all the world, but if there’s anything that feels familiar and safe, that’s a win. Same goes for blankets: get a cotton one, a fleece one, a crocheted one, and a dimple dot one. Let the child have any or all that help. Clothes that fit — Keep in mind this means you might need pajamas and one versatile, all-season outfit for boys and girls in a huge range of sizes. Not all two-year olds fit a 2T! Get a range and judge what works best. Call friends with older kids and ask for a box of nice hand-me-downs with this night in mind. A new toothbrush — Maybe the child won’t want to brush (and I wouldn’t personally recommend dying on your sword for this the first night) but if they are willing, you want to be ready. Same goes for other personal hygiene items, depending on a child’s age: a new hairbrush and comb, a new deodorant, shampoo and lotion options appropriate for the child’s race or ethnicity. A crate or a pet-sitter for your critter — Sure, your dog is “part of the family,” but until you know how this new child will react to Fluffy, allow at least this first night without one more “unknown.” Easy food — This could mean many different things to many different kids, but having a bunch of choices is a good way to start. Noodles, chicken fingers, tater tots, and pizza with two gallons of ketchup for dipping may not be the healthiest meal, but a few bites of something is probably better than a howling tummy their first night sleeping in your home. Baby things — If you are taking foster placements of babies, you should have a good stock of various diaper sizes, wipes, a car seat/booster seat, bottles, formula, a crib, and every single style of pacifier you can possibly locate. (You never know which will be the golden ticket!) If you’re a friend to a foster parent, ask what ages of children they typically have in their home, and if it would be a help for you to be on the look-out for deals on clothes in those sizes.  If your foster parent friend tells you she’s getting a placement, offer to bring her that easy dinner for the child’s first night (but don’t barge in and “meet” the kid — drop it off and go). If nothing else, ask what time you can order a pizza for delivery to their house.

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Imagine there was a tornado coming at your house. Suddenly and unexpectedly, you have to leave. You have less than five minutes — what do you grab? Unfortunately for children coming into foster care, they may have as little warning that they are entering a devastating emotional storm. Sometimes, even if the county is able to bring over a child’s own clothes and belongings the next day or a week later, the first night in foster care often leaves a child surrounded by strange, alien, unfamiliar items that bring little comfort.  If you can help make them feel welcome, instead of like an unexpected houseguest, that’s a good step in the right direction. Remember, this probably feels like the worst day of this child’s life.

Here’s what I suggest you have on hand:

  • A couple blankets and stuffed animal options — You’re probably not going to guess just the right stuffed bear out of all the bears in all the world, but if there’s anything that feels familiar and safe, that’s a win. Same goes for blankets: get a cotton one, a fleece one, a crocheted one, and a dimple dot one. Let the child have any or all that help.
  • Clothes that fit — Keep in mind this means you might need pajamas and one versatile, all-season outfit for boys and girls in a huge range of sizes. Not all two-year olds fit a 2T! Get a range and judge what works best. Call friends with older kids and ask for a box of nice hand-me-downs with this night in mind.
  • A new toothbrush — Maybe the child won’t want to brush (and I wouldn’t personally recommend dying on your sword for this the first night) but if they are willing, you want to be ready. Same goes for other personal hygiene items, depending on a child’s age: a new hairbrush and comb, a new deodorant, shampoo and lotion options appropriate for the child’s race or ethnicity.
  • A crate or a pet-sitter for your critter — Sure, your dog is “part of the family,” but until you know how this new child will react to Fluffy, allow at least this first night without one more “unknown.”
  • Easy food — This could mean many different things to many different kids, but having a bunch of choices is a good way to start. Noodles, chicken fingers, tater tots, and pizza with two gallons of ketchup for dipping may not be the healthiest meal, but a few bites of something is probably better than a howling tummy their first night sleeping in your home.
  • Baby things — If you are taking foster placements of babies, you should have a good stock of various diaper sizes, wipes, a car seat/booster seat, bottles, formula, a crib, and every single style of pacifier you can possibly locate. (You never know which will be the golden ticket!)

If you’re a friend to a foster parent, ask what ages of children they typically have in their home, and if it would be a help for you to be on the look-out for deals on clothes in those sizes.  If your foster parent friend tells you she’s getting a placement, offer to bring her that easy dinner for the child’s first night (but don’t barge in and “meet” the kid — drop it off and go). If nothing else, ask what time you can order a pizza for delivery to their house.

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Culture Shock: Why Ministering to Children of Divorce Isn’t Like Traditional Children’s Ministry http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-ministering-children-divorce-isnt-like-traditional-childrens-ministry/ http://hope4hurtingkids.com/church-and-ministry/culture-shock-ministering-children-divorce-isnt-like-traditional-childrens-ministry/#respond Mon, 13 Mar 2017 12:00:20 +0000 http://hope4hurtingkids.com/?p=1242 This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce. Children’s Ministry workers are a unique breed. We choose to volunteer and spend our time surrounded by kids striving to teach them about Jesus and the Bible. We enjoy noise and games and the many twists and turns that children’s ministry inevitably brings. As a group we tend to be a little more free spirited, but we also take ministering to children very seriously. To that end, oftentimes we get a picture in our minds about how our ministry should operate – how a certain activity should unfold or how a group of kids should act. We get our minds set on what we want to accomplish, train our leaders to move towards that vision and then move forward sometimes faster than we can even keep up. Sometimes, we even settle in and enjoy the fact that everything seems to be running smoothly…that is until “that child” shows up. We love kids, and we have a heart for kids, but “that child” is the difficult one. The one who disrupts the plan and refuses to allow the ministry to operate the way it should. Many times, in today’s day and age, “that child” is a child of divorce. The fact is ministering to a child of divorce, whether in a dedicated group setting like DC4K or in your Sunday morning children’s ministry, presents unique challenges. Not every person who in children’s ministry is going to be equipped to work with children of divorce. If people have done children’s ministry before or are used to a more traditional children’s ministry, they may go into culture shock when it comes to ministering to children of divorce. Or they may throw up their hands when a child of divorce comes into other church classes. I tell new Divorce Care for Kids directors and coordinators who come from a children’s ministry background that they are likely to experience what I call “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock” when running the program. Let me give you some examples of what I mean by “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock”. In ministering to children of divorce, you will find many children who will bring the chaos that defines their everyday existence outside of church into the group or classroom. When ministering to children of divorce, it is beneficial to set up groups to accommodate mixed age grouping rather than putting all kids of the same age together. The flow of activities in a divorce ministry will likely need to be different than that in a weekly children’s ministry. Allowing children to make choices is a much-needed technique and the name of the game so to speak when getting children of divorce involved in a group. How you deal with disruptive children may look different in a divorce ministry than it will in a weekly children’s ministry. Over the next several weeks, we will examine each of these major differences between more traditional ministry and ministry to children of divorce in more depth. We will dive into why these differences exist and what they mean. I (Linda) will explain how we developed DC4K in such a way to account for these differences. And, I (Wayne) will explore how you can use this knowledge to adjust how you minister to children in a weekly children’s ministry setting. Join us next time as we explore the issue of dealing with the chaos inherent in the lives of children of divorce and what that means when it comes to ministry. This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on August 03, 2012.

The post Culture Shock: Why Ministering to Children of Divorce Isn’t Like Traditional Children’s Ministry appeared first on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

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This series is co-written by Linda Ranson Jacobs and Wayne Stocks. Linda has drawn on her years of experience working with children of divorce in a childcare setting, in churches and in developing the Divorce Care for Kids (“DC4K”) curriculum for churches to identify and explain some major issues when it comes to ministering to children of divorce and to explain how those issues were addressed in the DC4K curriculum. Wayne has drawn on his years volunteering in children’s ministry and his work with children of divorce to provide some practical advice on how these issues can be addressed in a weekly children’s ministry environment. Together, we hope that this series will help children’s ministry workers better minister to children of divorce and help those who volunteer in divorce ministries like DC4K to better anticipate and deal with issues unique to children of divorce.

Children’s Ministry workers are a unique breed. We choose to volunteer and spend our time surrounded by kids striving to teach them about Jesus and the Bible. We enjoy noise and games and the many twists and turns that children’s ministry inevitably brings.

As a group we tend to be a little more free spirited, but we also take ministering to children very seriously. To that end, oftentimes we get a picture in our minds about how our ministry should operate – how a certain activity should unfold or how a group of kids should act. We get our minds set on what we want to accomplish, train our leaders to move towards that vision and then move forward sometimes faster than we can even keep up. Sometimes, we even settle in and enjoy the fact that everything seems to be running smoothly…that is until “that child” shows up. We love kids, and we have a heart for kids, but “that child” is the difficult one. The one who disrupts the plan and refuses to allow the ministry to operate the way it should. Many times, in today’s day and age, “that child” is a child of divorce. The fact is ministering to a child of divorce, whether in a dedicated group setting like DC4K or in your Sunday morning children’s ministry, presents unique challenges.

Not every person who in children’s ministry is going to be equipped to work with children of divorce. If people have done children’s ministry before or are used to a more traditional children’s ministry, they may go into culture shock when it comes to ministering to children of divorce. Or they may throw up their hands when a child of divorce comes into other church classes.

I tell new Divorce Care for Kids directors and coordinators who come from a children’s ministry background that they are likely to experience what I call “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock” when running the program.

Let me give you some examples of what I mean by “Divorce Ministry Culture Shock”.

  1. In ministering to children of divorce, you will find many children who will bring the chaos that defines their everyday existence outside of church into the group or classroom.
  2. When ministering to children of divorce, it is beneficial to set up groups to accommodate mixed age grouping rather than putting all kids of the same age together.
  3. The flow of activities in a divorce ministry will likely need to be different than that in a weekly children’s ministry.
  4. Allowing children to make choices is a much-needed technique and the name of the game so to speak when getting children of divorce involved in a group.
  5. How you deal with disruptive children may look different in a divorce ministry than it will in a weekly children’s ministry.

Over the next several weeks, we will examine each of these major differences between more traditional ministry and ministry to children of divorce in more depth. We will dive into why these differences exist and what they mean. I (Linda) will explain how we developed DC4K in such a way to account for these differences. And, I (Wayne) will explore how you can use this knowledge to adjust how you minister to children in a weekly children’s ministry setting.

Join us next time as we explore the issue of dealing with the chaos inherent in the lives of children of divorce and what that means when it comes to ministry.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on August 03, 2012.

The post Culture Shock: Why Ministering to Children of Divorce Isn’t Like Traditional Children’s Ministry appeared first on Hope 4 Hurting Kids.

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