Have You Thought About the Child of Divorce and Childcare?
Who Is Raising Our Children?
We all know that our children are our next generation. Unless there is a conscious effort on the part of an adult, people will parent their own kids the way they were parented. Being parented doesn’t necessarily mean that a mother and/or father raised you. For generations, people like grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends have raised children. We have even had children being raised by people unknown to the child such as foster parents.
The Bible, as well as history books, are full of stories of children being raised by someone other than their birth parents. These people grew up and became parents and did fine for the most part. The differences in children being parented today are societal influences (computers, internet, video games, TV, etc.) and other entities that are raising our children especially children from single parent families. The significant other, or a cohabitating partner, is one example – a situation which, by the way, says, “I can’t commit to marriage but I will commit to letting you influence my child for several years.”
Who Is Influencing Our Children?
Children from single parent families spend the majority of their waking hours in group care. They either have parents that are attending school full time or parents that are working – some of these parents are working two or more jobs or going to school and working. One small study showed that school age children might very well be in child care 300 to 400 hours more per year than even in public school. When one counts summer, school vacations and holidays, early outs and parent teacher conference days the child will spend many more hours overall in the childcare facility.
Who is raising the next generation of parents? Who, or what, are these children going to mimic when they become adults and parents? In case you haven’t quite grasped the picture that is being presented, let me explain it to you. Underpaid, untrained and inconsistent caregivers are raising these children from single parent homes. For many children no other entity in a child’s life holds more influence over a child than the childcare giver.
The child is dropped off early in the morning, many times before 6:00 a.m. The following is an example of the child’s daily routine.
“Hang up your coat, sit down, be quiet, get in line, go to the bathroom, wash your hands, eat your breakfast, sit on the rug for circle time, go outside, come inside, hang up your coat, it’s time for your mom (or dad) to come, clean up, get your artwork, get your coat, see you in the morning.”
Then when the single parent takes the child home after nine to ten hours in care outside of the home and outside of the parent’s influence, more times than not the child plops in front of the T.V. or goes online. These mediums then portray immediate gratification in all situations of life – feel bad, take a pill; want to celebrate, grab a beer; don’t like your marriage partner, get a divorce – and this is all done in a thirty minute time span.
Television and movies sear the young mind with graphic visions of violence and sexual escapades. Time and time, hour after hour television pours in inappropriate scenarios over and over again. The child goes through their entire day without parental influence. The only conversation between parent and child are usually commands or directions, and many children are shuttled back and forth between two homes and two parents.
What’s the Problem With Childcare?
Churches, pastors and children’s workers need to realize the importance of childcare in these children. Childcare is a fact of life for the single parent. Children from single parent homes need high quality childcare programs, but statistically they receive low quality childcare programs. Realistically, many single parents struggle to afford any daycare let alone pay for a more expensive quality program.
Many states that provide childcare assistance, such as Title XX, do not pay a high reimbursement rate. Thus, the children on childcare subsidy do not have quality childcare available to them. Some childcare centers only allocate a certain percentage of subsidized childcare slots due to the fact the reimbursement rates are low.
When I owned a childcare all of my subsidized clientele were single parents, but not all of my single parents were on state assistance. Some single parents made a few dollars over the limit and therefore did not qualify for assistance.
What Can Churches Do?
Many times the role of single parent is thrust upon the parent quite unexpectedly. They don’t have time to learn about single parenting, they just react. They don’t have time to research the best childcare or even what childcare is all about. This is where churches can fill in the gap for the single parent.
- Develop a checklist to educate the parent on what to look for in a childcare facility.
- Send someone with them when they go to look for a childcare for their children.
- Create a list of “helpers” – people who can assist when a single parent has to work overtime and the childcare closes before the parent can pick up the child. Helpers can pick up a child from care and take them to the parent or take the child to their home for the evening as needed or fill in the gap when a child gets ill and needs to be picked up from childcare.
- Subsidize the childcare tuition, but don’t enable the single parent. Provide ways for them to work off the extra financial help.
- Provide respite care for the out of control child. Research shows that one of the reasons “welfare to work” reform did not work in the beginning was because children from single parent families tended to have out of control behavior problems and they got ‘kicked out’ of childcare and school. Single parents lost their jobs when they continually had to leave work to pick up a child.
- Provide counselors and parenting classes for single parents.
- If a church has a counselor on staff, have the counselor donate a couple hours a week to a local childcare.
What Can Your Church Do to Assist the Child of Divorce and Childcare?
What can the religious realm do to strengthen the next generation of parents that are being raised in childcare? There are several areas that local churches can do to address this situation:
- Start a childcare in your church building.
- Support quality childcare programs that are currently in existence in your community.
- Educate and train childcare staff in your community.
- Minister to and assist single parents that use childcare.
- Celebrate and encourage the childcare worker.
- Advocate for quality early childhood and quality school age programs in your area.
If your church already has a childcare program, collaborate with those teachers and workers to create a cohesive environment for children from divorcing homes. Get the single parent’s permission to do this. Explain that it will be beneficial for all programs to create a continuous continuum of care for their child.
If your church does not want to open a childcare program, or is not in a position to open a childcare program, then support the quality childcare programs that are already in existence in your area. There are a number of ways you can do this:
- When you are having training sessions for your children’s church workers, invite the staff from local childcare facilities to attend.
- If your church has a gym, recreation center or indoor play yard, lease or loan it to local daycares to be used on a rainy day or during school holidays when school age children are out of school all day. (Be sure to check with your insurance company in advance.)
- Create relationships with local child care facilities, and encourage the members of your church to volunteer to provide extra ‘hands’ for those facilities. There are a number of ways your members can help. You may have to get creative, but here are some examples:
- Volunteer rockers: Childcare programs sometimes just need people to come in rock the babies
- Readers: Older adults can volunteer to read to children.
- Grandparent Role Models: Many children in childcare do not have access to their grandparents.
- Substitute: Retired schoolteachers or stay at home moms could assist by being on call to fill in when a caregiver is ill
- Handyman: Find men, and women, in your church who can paint and repair equipment. These types of services are much needed and can be costly to the childcare facility.
- Quilters and Seamstresses: Find talented church members who would be willing to make warm blankets and quilts for infant toddler children.
- There are many other tangible ways your church can support local daycares including:
- Sell or give used office equipment (such as a computer) to a childcare that provides care for single parents in your church.
- Send out-of-date magazines on family life to a childcare so they can distribute them to the parents in their programs
Educate and Train Child Care Staff
To work effectively with children that are from single parent families, child care staff must develop empathy and sympathy for these children. Educate childcare teachers about the grief process children experience and then teach them to set up their environments to accommodate the stages and phases of grief and losses.
Educate childcare staff on the typical developmental stages of growth in children and the effect of stress on typical growth. Here are some basic facts to get you started.
- Many of these children miss out on developmental levels, and need to go back and work through that stage of development again.
- Some of these children may get stuck emotionally at the chronological age they were when the parents separated or divorced.
- As a result of stress related to the divorce, the physical, skeletal and muscular development may be stunted in these kids.
- The child wants the caregivers to control their external world when the child feels like they have no control internally.
Also, educate staff on attachment issues. Childcare staff must bond and attach with the children under two years of age. If they don’t, these children will not be able to trust adults in their lives, and this will lead to life-long problems. Poor quality childcare is one of the leading contributors to Reactive Attachment Disorder. These are the children that grow up with breaks in their bonding process.
Children will attach themselves to substitute caregivers if their parents cannot spend time with them. When the adults in their lives continually disappoint them, the children will attach themselves to their physical surroundings. The ideal situation for the child of a single parent is for the childcare worker to enhance and add to the relationship between the single parent and the child.
Advocate For Quality Early Childhood And School Age Childcare Programs
Dianna Garland in her book Precious In His Sight, writes:
“Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine and injustice when He could do something about it.”
“Well, why don’t you ask Him?”
“Because I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”
That is my question to you today. If we don’t advocate for children from single parent families, who will? What is being modeled for these children? And how will it affect their ability to parent when they become adults?
“Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:4 (HCSB)
Children are living messages we send to a time we will not see. What message is your church sending to the future?
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 May 18 & 25, 2012.