Editor’s Note: Linda Ranson Jacobs is back with a “Top Ten” list. This week, she offers ten ways to pray for children of divorce and their families. You can access a printer friendly (and shareable) pdf version of this list by clicking anywhere in the list below.Hope 4 Hurting Kids Divorce and Modern Family Help Center. Continue reading
Last week we reported on the release of a brand new report titled “Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?” by Elizabeth Marquardt, Amy Ziettlow, and Charles E. Stokes studying the impacts of divorce on children’s faith. The following represent ten key observations and conclusions from that report.
1. Churches struggle to reach children of divorce.
“When parents do not involve their children in an active life of faith, churches seem bewildered about how to reach them.”
2. Children of Divorce are less religious on whole than children from intact families.
“While there are a diverse range of theories about why the adult offspring of divorced parents are less likely to be religiously involved than their peers from intact families, little doubt exists about the correlation or connection.”
“…when children of divorce reach adulthood, compared to those who grew up in intact families, they feel less religious on the whole and are less likely to be involved in the regular practice of a faith.”
“The authors found, for example, that those raised in happy, intact marriages were more than twice as likely to attend religious services, compared to those raised in good divorces. And, those raised in happy, intact marriages were more likely to report an absence of negative experiences of God, compared to those raised in good divorces.”
3. Children of divorce are more likely to leave religious practice all together.
“One important study by Leora E. Lawton and Regina Bures found that Catholic and moderate Protestant children of divorce are more than twice as likely to leave religious practice altogether, and that conservative Protestants are more than three times as likely to do so.”
4. Children of divorce are more likely to consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”
“It is also becoming clear that grown children of divorce stand at the leading edge of a generation that considers itself “spiritual but not religious.” Yet they form a kind of broken leading edge, with spiritual stories quite often characterized by loss or suffering. Having perhaps turned to God for solace and hope, they may think of themselves as spiritual persons, but they report more difficulty practicing a faith within religious institutions.”
“In a separate study also using the Glenn and Marquardt data, Zhai and colleagues find that adult children of divorce are much more likely to identify themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious.’”
5. A parental divorce during adolescence increases the odds of some sort of religious change.
“…it appears as if the experience of parental breakup in adolescence triggers an increase in the odds of religious change, whether that change is a move toward or away from religion.”
6. Children formulate their image of God based on their experiences with their own parents.
“…children’s early images of God arise at least in part from their lived experience with their own parents.”
7. Parents and families are key to a child’s faith journey.
“Parents play a vital role in influencing children’s religious lives after divorce, particularly in a culture in which congregational engagement and other forms of civic involvement are no longer as normative as they once were.”
“Melinda Denton writes that the greatest predictor of the religious lives of youth is the religious lives of their parents: ‘Youth with highly religious parents are much more likely to be highly religious themselves, while youth whose parents are disengaged from religion are more likely to be disengaged as well.’”
“…some studies show that family practices are more closely linked than family structure to strong faith in adulthood, but intact families are more likely to have the stability necessary to maintain these practices.”
8. A father’s involvement is of particular importance to a child’s future faith.
“Overall, as reported by Elisa Zhai of Miami University and colleagues in an analysis of the Glenn and Marquardt data, the link between parental divorce and lower likelihood of the grown children’s regular practice of a religion appears to be significantly explained by lower levels of father’s involvement in the religious lives of these children.”
9. A so-called “good divorce” does not eliminate the faith issues faced by children of divorce.
“The odds of religious attendance are more than twice as high for those raised in happy, intact marriages compared to those raised in amicable divorces.”
10. Divorce can provide an opportunity for children to develop a deeper relationship with God if their questions are answered and they a provided with spiritual role models.
“The health and future of congregations depends upon understanding, reaching out to, and nurturing as potential leaders those who have come of age in an era of dramatic social changes in family structure. The suffering felt by children of divorce may actually offer a pathway toward healing and growth, not only for themselves but for the churches.”
For more resources and information on divorce, family disruption and modern families please visit our Hope 4 Hurting Kids Divorce and Modern Family Help Center.
This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on Divorce Ministry 4 Kids on January 21, 2013.
Several years ago, the Institute for American Values released a new report titled “Does the Shape of Families Shape Faith?” The report, written by Elizabeth Marquardt, Amy Ziettlow, and Charles E. Stokes, represents a call to action for churches in regards to ministering to children of divorce.
The report starts quite simply by stating,
“It’s time for people of faith to talk about the impact of divorce on the next generation.”
It’s one thing to know something about a single parent family’s situation. It’s quite another thing to understand a situation enough that you can empathize, appreciate the frustrations involved in living in a single parent home and be tolerant of a family’s situation.
In this article, I’d like to look at actually understanding what goes on inside a single parent home. Try to place yourself in the role of being a single parent. First of all there is no one to help you. I mean NO ONE! You are on 24/7 and that’s not for just a day or week or a month or this year but for many single parents it is for years.
Let’s look in on some typical single parents. In this first scene we see a mom sitting in the audience of a school concert. She is sitting there looking very calm on the outside but on the inside experiencing unbelievable turmoil.
“Now let’s see, if Chase’s group will just perform in the next fifteen minutes then I can sneak out of this concert and go across town, and if I don’t hit too many red lights, I can get there just in time to see Heather play soccer. If I can just stay long enough to see one quarter, are they called quarters or what? Oh well, I have to learn about soccer on another day, I don’t have time to worry about it now. Let’s see where was I? Oh yes, I can come back here pick up Chase before the end of this performance and then we can rush back, get Heather, go home and make dinner. Oh yeah, I’ve got to remember to pick up some milk for breakfast. Then while dinner is cooking I can start the laundry. I hope those kids got the clothes sorted. Did Chase say he needs tape for that science project? Oh well, I might as well get some tape while I’m at the store. After dinner I’ll have to remember to set aside some time to help Chase with that project. After I get the kids to bed I’ve got to remember to go online and pay the credit card bill. Please let my paycheck get to the bank before the credit card payment! I’m going to have to remember to check the date online on that bill and make sure I can pay it after 11:00 pm in our time zone and not get charged another late fee. I think there’s a three-hour difference in our time zones. Honestly, I can’t keep up with when everything goes through the bank and I’ve got to remember that I wrote a check for the school fundraiser. Did I even give Heather that check yesterday morning? Then I’ll have to get my clothes ready for tomorrow. I think I’ll wear that blue outfit but I have to remember to fix that tear. Gee, I wonder how many more washings that outfit can take. It must be five years old by now but I’ve got that important meeting at work tomorrow and I’ve got to wear something that looks half-way decent. Whew! Maybe I can get to bed by midnight. Oh well, that’s earlier than last night. Oh, shoot I was supposed to call my mom tonight. I’ll have to remember to try and find time tomorrow night.”
Several months ago, we received the following comment from a reader:
Do you have anything I can read about the upside down family law court system in OK? How do you help three little boys whose father adores them, helps them with all their sports, mother has an affair and the court system gives him only standard visitation. 4 days a month is UNPARDONABLE! What can be done to come against a small town judge who clearly has issues against men herself to rule the way she did???
I don’t know the details of this family’s situation, but I have been involved in enough divorce cases to know that many times one side, or both, feels this way about the decisions handed down by the court. I also know that those of us who work with children of divorce are often solicited for information and advice by the parents of the kids that we minister to.
With the help of Linda Ranson Jacobs, a writer here on Hope 4 Hurting Kids, who has worked extensively with children of divorce and lived for a long period of time in Oklahoma, I set out to answer this question in a manner which I feel would be most beneficial to the kids involved. Here is my answer:
H4HK FAQs are designed to answer questions kids and teens ask when facing difficult situations and circumstances in their lives.
Many times when people get divorced, one or both or the parties to the divorce move. It may be just down the street, or across town or to another city entirely. Maybe your Dad lives in another state or Mom has moved to an entirely different country. What can you do to maintain a relationship with a parent who no longer lives close by?
This can be a tough situation, and it can be hard to stay in contact because of distance and time constraints. There are some things you can do in those circumstances however to make sure that you still maintain a relationship with your distant parent. So, what can you do to stay in touch with a parent when you don’t get to speak with them or see much if at all? Here are some ideas:
- Introduce your distant parent to new technology. In these days of instant communication, you don’t have to see your parent face-to-face to communicate with them. Apps like Facetime and Skype allow almost anyone to video conference these days, and there is no reason you can’t see your parent and talk to them using these great programs. Texting, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all allow you to share what is going on in your life and allow your parent to do the same. There are apps for other devices like iPods and Tablets that allow you to text even if you don’t have a cellular connection.
- Write letters. From new high-tech gadgets to old school, there is still something special about a handwritten letter. Pour your heart out, or just let your parent know what is going on in your life. A handwritten letter is just more personal than a message on a smart phone.
- Record videos and send them to your parent. They might not be able to be at your school recital or soccer game, but there’s no reason they can’t experience some of it. Make a little video, even if it’s just a short Vine or Instagram video, and send it to them. Ask them to video themselves and send it back to you.
- Send personal things back and forth. If you created a work of art in school, or in your spare time, send it to your parent. If they go on a business trip, ask them to get you something and send it to you. Make a “treasure box” that you can send back and forth.
- Keep a journal. One reason that proximity helps to build relationships is because you get to share mutual experiences. You can’t do that if your parent lives hours away, but if you keep a journal of things you want to let your parent know, or exciting things you want to share with them, you can make sure that they don’t miss out entirely on the important moments of your life. Consider keeping two journals, you write in one one month and your parent writes in the other, then you swap them (by mail) and you get to read your parents’ journal for the last month and record your thoughts in that one.
- Schedule a regular trip. Just because you can’t see your parent as much as you would like doesn’t mean you can’t schedule regular trips to see them whether you go there or they come to see you. Even if it’s only once or twice a year, talk to your parents about putting something on the calendar so you have that time to look forward to.
Your new arrangement is difficult, no doubt, but with a little bit of work and imagination, you can find a way to keep your relationship with your distant parent strong and thriving. If there are other things you have tried, please share them in the comments below so we can all learn from you.
Parenting alone can be a tough journey when one doesn’t feel well. Most single parents will continue to go to work when they don’t feel well. They do this so they can save their sick days for when their child is sick so they can stay home with that child. But, what happens when the single mom or dad is really sick and they need help?
I know there were a few times in my single parent life when I got sick, but I never had to be hospitalized or face a life-threatening situation. I would like to think had that happened my church family would have stepped up and helped. But do churches do that for single parents?
I know of one single mom that faced cancer. She had a four-year old child. During her cancer she came to know Christ as her Savior through our church reaching out to her. When she found out the cancer was terminal she reached out to our church and to me more than she called on her non-Christian family. Here are some things she liked for us to do:
- Come to the house and visit with her or sometimes just sit with her.
- Bring fun things to the house for her daughter such as ice cream to eat. My friend couldn’t eat ice cream, but she enjoyed watching her daughter get excited that she had ice cream to eat and she had someone to eat it with her.
- Come and read the Bible to her.
- At one point, she asked me to help her plan her own funeral. She wanted a Christian funeral, and her family couldn’t comprehend what that would look like.
- When she went into the hospital toward the end of her life, she liked for me to come and sing her favorite praise songs to her.
H4HK FAQs are designed to answer questions kids and teens ask when facing difficult situations and circumstances in their lives.
When people get divorced, relationships suffer. Obviously, your parents’ relationship is different, but it can also hurt your relationship with one or both parents. In some extreme circumstances, a parent may decide they don’t really want anything to do with you anymore. They can do this by their actions (spending little time with you) or come right out and say it. The relationship suffers or dies because one of your parents isn’t interested in investing the time in having a relationship with you. This is unfortunate (tragic even), and you don’t deserve it, but if you do find yourself with a parent who doesn’t really seem to want to spend any time with you, you have to tackle that issue before we discuss ways of staying in touch.
You can’t make your parent want to spend the time with you that you might want to spend with them. Should they want to spend time with you? Yes. Is it unfair that they are no longer acting like a parent? Yes. Is it your fault that they don’t want to spend time with you? Absolutely not! Here are some things you need to remember and try if you find yourself with a parent who “just doesn’t have time for you:”
- Be realistic. Is it true that they aren’t spending any time with you, or is it just the case that they aren’t spending as much time with you as you would like. Many times after a divorce, schedules get hectic and parents end up working longer hours and running around more. The lack of time may be the result of that, and they may be missing spending time with you as much as you are missing spending it with them. In that case, hang in there. Explain to them that you miss spending time with them and wait for this season to pass. Try not to let the current distance harm your future relationship.
- Don’t blame yourself. You can’t change your parents. You didn’t make them the way they are, and you can’t make them switch. You can ask, but you can’t snap your fingers and make it happen. Understand that their decision not to spend more time with you is exactly that – THEIR DECISION. It is not a reflection on you as a person or as a son or daughter. Do not take the blame for someone else’s decision.
- Accept the fact that you can’t make your parent(s) change. Your Mom or Dad may never be the kind of Mom or Dad you want or feel like you deserve. You might never have the relationship with your parent that you feel like you should have. This isn’t as easy as it might sound, but once you finally accept this as true, you can spend your time trying to forge whatever kind of relationship you can based on who your parent is rather than who you want them to be. It also allows you to move yourself from being captive to an ideal to free to go on and become the person you want to be (something you do have some control over).
- Talk to your parent. What seems very obvious to you (that they aren’t spending enough time with you) might not even be on their radar. What’s the worse that can happen – they could confirm what you already believe (that they don’t want to spend time with you). That will hurt, but at least it will be out there on the table!
- Give it time. Just because your parent doesn’t seem interested today doesn’t mean that it will never change. Hopefully they will come to their senses and want to reverse the current trend. They may even come to the realization that they have hurt you and work to make up for that. You can’t make it happen (see #3 above) and you need to accept the current state of things, but that doesn’t mean that you have to abandon all hope. People change. Sometimes it is for the worse, but many times it is for the better.
- Find a trusted adult you can talk to. You won’t be able to replace your “missing” parent, and you shouldn’t try, but it’s important that you have adults in your life that you trust who can help you with things that your distant parent should be doing. It might be an aunt or an uncle, a family friends or someone from your church, but on the lookout for someone you can talk to and learn from.
We’ve often discussed how stressful it is being a single parent. A lot of ideas have been given about how to minister to single parents and their children. One subject that hasn’t come up is the issue of the possibility of a single parent with a terminal illness or a disability. How can you help a single parent in one of these situations?
Most single parents don’t plan ahead for such a situation. Most of the time they are barely surviving and yet the necessity of them having to face their fear of death or a disability might become a real concern. I know when I was a single parent the possibility was always in the back of my mind,
“What will happen to my kids if something happens to me?”
At the time, I was clueless about what to do. I wish there had been a church or some church leaders close by that could have helped me sort through the legal issues in a situation like this. In my particular case I knew the kids would be able to go and live with their dad, but I hadn’t really thought through much more than that. He lived in another town, and that would have meant a lot of changes for my kids.
Welcome back as we continue our “Sunday Morning Strategies” series designed to help you to accommodate children of divorce and children from single parent homes in your Sunday morning children’s ministry. Today, we start to tackle one of the most visible issues you will likely face in your ministry – discipline and the child of divorce.
- Children of divorce live in a world where they feel like they have no control over anything. Oftentimes, that leads to them acting out or lashing out in their behavior. They misbehave as a means of getting attention and as a way of exerting the little bit of control they do have left over their lives. You have likely seen these discipline problems in your ministry and dealt with these kids, yet you may never have realized that the root of these problems was in dealing with family disruption. In the coming weeks, we will look at specific things you can do and techniques you can use in terms of discipline and children of divorce, but before we do that, it’s important to step back and take a broader view of the issue of discipline and children of divorce.
What Is Discipline?
At its root, discipline has to be about discipleship. It’s right there in the root of the word. We when we talk about any discipline, whether for the child of divorce or otherwise, it is important to keep the goal in mind. The goal must be to disciple the child – to guide them and teach them to make right and God honoring choices. Discipleship, and therefore discipline, has to be about the heart of the child. As such, the ability to discipline boils down to relationship. Continue reading