A House Divided

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Divorce impacts all children whose parents
experience it-but in different ways and to different degrees. Much
depends on the support available in making the transition from a
two-parent family to two separate families. Our churches can be
part of the restorative process if we better understand
commonalities of the affected children and as we listen carefully
to these families’ unique needs.

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Kids’ Needs

Children of divorce experience grief in much the same way that
survivors of any loss do. Rather than viewing the grief process as
a linear progression, it’s helpful to imagine it as a spiral that
includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and
forgiveness. These stages may present themselves over and over as a
child enters different stages of maturity. For example, the anger
in a preschool child may show up as increased crying and demand for
attention, while in the early elementary years, it may resurface as
behavior problems at school. Preschoolers may bargain by promising
to “be good” if Mommy or Daddy will come home. Elementary-age
children may devise elaborate schemes to bring their parents back
together and make promises to God about what they’ll do if God will
only answer their prayers for their parents to be together
again.

Any stage of grieving that appears to have been resolved can be
triggered again as life stages change. The third-grader who seems
to have reached a stage of forgiveness for Dad moving away may
become intensely angry in fifth grade when Dad’s not there for a
school play or soccer tournament. Or a preschooler who feels great
about making a Father’s Day gift for Uncle John may become
withdrawn and depressed as the second grade father-son overnight
camp approaches and he realizes that no one else is bringing his
uncle. Another change that often provokes a regression in the grief
cycle occurs when a parent begins to date.

     

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