Thanksgiving is now a memory and Christmas looms before us. For some kids Christmas is an exciting time of the year. For many kids Christmas may mean staying up late, no school, visits with relatives, presents and candy. As people who work with kids, we want them to find the true meaning of Christmas. The emotions of Christmas in a child of divorce may be very different than what you are used to.
Most of you will go overboard trying to relay the story of the baby Jesus and his humble birth with special lessons and activities. There will be special Christmas musicals; special holiday parties or celebrations; perhaps even caroling events also.
We want kids to come to church and enjoy the “specialness” of this time of year. That’s why I want to start early this year asking you to prepare yourself for the child of divorce. If it is a child’s first Christmas after the separation or divorce of their parents, you might want to be prepared for a variety of feelings to be exhibited. Depending on how recent the divorce was, the child may appear to be in shock, or the child may be confused not sure of what their feelings are.
If it has been several months, and the child has begun to process the divorce, you may find some anger feelings emerging in your classes. If the child feels safe with you, then don’t be surprised if a lot of anger comes out. Some children will hold their anger in when they are around their parents. They don’t want to upset their already stressed and/or angry parents. But, when they get to a safe place and if you have developed a relationship with them, then they will let their guard down and express themselves.
One of the ways you can help these children, especially around Christmas when they are feeling even more stressed than normal, is to help them understand their anger. You can do this by helping them see what
- Anger looks like
- Anger sounds like
- Anger feels like
In DC4K we make a chart and the kids share their examples. I have included one such chart. In this chart:
ANGER LOOKS LIKE
- Crossed arms
- Furrowed eye brows
- Clenched teeth
- Fists balling
- Hands hitting
ANGER SOUNDS LIKE
- Fussing angrily
- Banging fist
- Saying, “I AM MAD!”
ANGER FEELS LIKE
- A tight stomach
- Energy in your hands and feet
I particularly find kids comments under “Anger Feels Like” interesting. They feel energy in their hands and feet? It feels “weird” or “hot?” Kids are perceptive when they have a chance to acknowledge things. When kids recognize what is happening in their bodies as a response to anger, they can then get control of it. Anger is no longer scary but logical. Things that are happening with them begin to make sense.
With Christmas coming up, see if you can pinpoint what anger looks like, sounds like and feels like in some of your children. You will be doing them a big favor when you can help them now several weeks before Christmas. Hopefully they will be ready and able to really enjoy the true meaning of Christmas.
You might even want to start with your volunteers first so they too can become aware of when stress is turning to anger. Once the volunteers and leadership understand anger better in themselves, they can then help the children of divorce with a deeper understanding.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:14 (NIV)
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 November 30, 2012.