How do kids respond to divorce? That’s a loaded question… but the bottom line is, kids respond out of loyalty. Divorce is confusing for kids, regardless of what’s going on between mom and dad, kids love both of their parents, or at the very least want love from both of their parents.
As a parent to three adult children, all of which have gone through the experience of divorce (yep, that means we’re a blended family that has weathered the steep trek up Mount “Canwedothis”), I can say without hesitation that for a kid, divorce stinks. It’s confusing and it requires adult influences who are willing to put their emotions aside in order to help kids navigate through it.
The good news is that kids can get through divorce as healthy, happy, strong kiddos! Here are a few realities you, as an SGL, need to understand in order to best help your few through this confusing life circumstance:
Kids love both their parents and want to be loyal to them both. Don’t encourage them take sides and or speak poorly about either parent. This will only create more confusion.
Most kids really do want their parents to get back together… don’t be surprised if this topic comes up often. They want a whole family again.
Kids might think they are the reason why their parents split up or why one parent left. Reassure them that both of their parents love them very much and that they are not the reason. Be careful not to give too much “adult” information, however. For the most part, kids don’t have the tools to process adult issues.
Young children (and some older kids too) don’t have the verbal tools to express how they are feeling (rejection, abandonment, fear, etc…) which may lead to acting out in your small group. Be sure that you spend extra time with these children. This time doesn’t always have to be “big talks”. Sometimes just being present allows them to feel security and comfort.
A child going through divorce has had their entire world turned upside-down. They need structure and normal routine as much as possible. You may feel tempted to shower those going through a tough time with gifts, treats, or rule exceptions, but don’t. These kids need a predictable environment more than ever.
Sometimes we find ourselves facing situations in our lives that we never thought we’d ever have to face, like divorce. Whether you are as close to the situation as a member of the family or a bit more removed as the child’s SGL, you are affected. Not only are you affected, you are responsible for helping to make sure everyone gets through with the least amount of casualties as possible. And all it really takes is a little understanding and extra time.