As children’s ministry leaders you may have found the article posted last week, “Understanding the Short-Term Legacies of Divorce,” interesting and relevant to the work you are currently doing with the children in your church. This week, as we discuss the long-term legacy of divorce, you might be inclined to think that understanding these is not as important as many are not likely to show up until children have left your ministry. Quite to the contrary, it is important for you to recognize the long-term legacies of divorce so that, as church leaders, you can help an individual child to better cope and potentially even lessen the impact of a particular long-term legacy.
While the long-term legacy of divorce may, and likely will, still affect the child in future years, your input today may help to lessen the severity of the impact as opposed to the child who hasn’t been exposed to the love of Christ and a loving church family. As churches become more cognizant about the impact of divorce on children they can step up minister more effectively to these children. This can take many forms including hosting support groups such as DivorceCare for Kids for elementary age children and “The Big D” for teens dealing divorce. Churches can tailor a bible study class or VBS to accommodate hurting children of divorce. These types of ministries and programs can and will give children better outcomes overall as they grow and mature surrounded by the love of God in a church family.
It is important to remember that not every child of divorce will be affected by divorce in the same way. The purpose of this article is to discuss general long-term legacies of divorce that many children experience. If you read the statistics on some of these issues, it can be frightening and disheartening. When I became a single parent, my children were eight and twelve years of age. At first I bought into all the hype and statistics about children of divorce. I felt like my children were doomed. I remember praying and begging the Lord to not let my twelve-year-old daughter get pregnant at fifteen and to allow my son to graduate from high school and not get involved in drugs. What a pitiful prayer! I shudder to think what would have happened to my children if I had held onto those pathetic thoughts. Along the way, the Lord helped me realize my children could survive and thrive.
Today, we want to look at some of the long-term impacts that divorce has on children as they mature into teenagers, young adults and even adulthood. Much of the information in this article comes from my own observations from working with children of divorce for over thirty years. It also comes from the nation’s leading adult support group called DivorceCare and from interviewing many adult children of divorce.