Discipling Children of Divorce cont...

We remind our parents to be trustworthy. With the ever changing routines living in 2 homes, shuffling the child up and back and perhaps for the first time in the child’s life, the introduction of day care or after school care many of the things the child has counted on in life are displaced or no longer possible. The parent must understand that in light of all these changes to the world of their child that trust has suddenly become a huge issue. Helping the parent to understand the crucial point of being a man or woman of their word to their child is another goal.

Daddy or mommy has gone away, and in the child’s mind and understanding that means they have broken their word to always be there, to always love them. If it is possible at all we like to have both parents in for a session to explain these things to them and impart to them the crucial nature of being trustworthy without it disintegrating into a screaming match.

Don’t make promises you cannot keep. Don’t get the child’s hopes up for something and back out at the last minute. Don’t give the child false hope about a reconciliation.

More than almost anything else, teaching your child to forgive will impact the child for the future. A child who does not learn to forgive their parents will grow up to be bitter, angry, rebellious, or have a higher possibility for drug or alcohol involvement. We can teach the child the principles of forgiveness, but they will not live them at home unless mom or dad or step-parent is first! The child wants to please whoever they are with at the time because they are terribly afraid of being totally abandoned. They will model the parents. If one parent bashed the other continuously and runs them down and spews terrible things about him or her and their unfaithfulness the child is going to also be unforgiving.

The parents must demonstrate a Christ-like attitude toward the other parent, despite the pain, misery and heartache and be forgiving. There must be much discussion and application of Scriptures like Matt 6; Phil 2 and others that emphasize the attitude of Christ toward those undeserving of anything but hell. This, more than meeting with a counselor once a week will change many things.

We also emphasize thankfulness from the perspective of Romans 8:28-29. I understand this can be a challenge, especially if life’s circumstances have changed for the child. Divorce often brings financial hardship and the child may be experiencing the loss of previous benefits, their home, friends, or school. This is outside of the total upheaval the divorce itself has brought to the child. A parent who demonstrates a thankful attitude to God and is not complaining is a true blessing to this situation. This means that they will understand how to return good for evil. Parents in a divorce situation are often guilty of being especially wicked and evil to one another. How 2 people who once said they loved each other can become so vile and hateful toward one another is a mystery to me. One withholds finances, the other withholds visitation and uses the kids to get back at the spouse…it is tragic. This area is one of the most challenging for adults to teach the child. One parent seems to always have to be a stinker and make life difficult and the one on the receiving end of that does not want to take it lying down. I would suggest praying for the departed parent with your child. Pray that God would bless that parent who left. Save the prayers for repentance and such for your private prayer time, but do pray with your child for the other parent in their life. Treat them with kindness and respect when you deal with them. The child is watching all of this and taking it in with great big eyes. The very best thing is to return good for evil, let the child see you suffer at the hands of the other parent, be willing to be wronged if possible. Be the bigger person and your child will soon see with their own eyes the reality of who is godly and who is not.

We instruct our parent how to handle their own guilt and how to address guilt in their children. The child may have feelings of guilt about many things even if they understand they are not the reason for the marriage breakup. They may secretly be glad it is over because all the fighting and yelling is over and also understand that what has gone on is not biblical. They may have guilt because of a deepening relationship with a significant other in the life of one of the parents. There is a sense of betrayal within them. Teaching your child to deal biblically with guilt is important for their continuing emotional development. Guilt is one reason kids tend to seek out drugs and alcohol because it numbs the pain and guilt.

When adults act like adults the children adjust much better. I have seen cases where the children have been happy, and well adjusted even in a divorce situation. The parents were able to set their marital difficulties aside for the sake of their children and determined to show the love of Christ to each other in spite of their inability to be married.

The Christian response is to love sacrificially and to do what is right before God. Sometimes it means we take it on the chin, but we must trust God knows and has a plan for us, and our children.

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