Are you a children’s minister or know a children’s minister? Here is the link to a blog I wrote, “Ministering to Kids of Divorce at Christmas” on the Imagine Family Ministry site.
Blessings as you minister to children of divorce all year long.
After having had a child care in OK during the Ok. City bombing let me offer some tips we learned.
1. Parents please do not hug your child fiercely every time you see them. They may not fully comprehend all that has happened however, they will pick up on your fretfulness.
2. Turn off the TV. I can’t say this loud enough TURN OFF THE TV. Younger children can’t tell the difference in reality and non reality. To them every time they see something on the shooting they will think another school has been attacked and will wonder if their school is next.
3. Do not talk to other adults about this shooting in front of your children. Children don’t understand speculation.
5. Try to keep yourself calm. Kids WILL pick up on your anxieties. Promise you they will.
6. At a calm moment sit down with your children and ask them what they know about the school shooting. Ask them what they want to know. Explain things in as calm a voice as you can.
17. Don’t lie to your children. When they ask you why this happened, tell them you don’t know. If they ask why God would allow this to happen, tell them God did not want this to happen and He wants them to be safe. Sometimes bad people do bad things.
8. Ask your children to pray with you for the families of the children and the teachers that were hurt or died (depending on the age of your child). Continue to pray for the children and their families at Sandy Hook Elementary School for the next few days.
9. Pull your children up on your lap and tell your children they are safe right now. You can only guarantee your child’s safety in the moment and for now that is what they need.
10. If I had elementary age children right now I’d talk to them about listening to their teachers when an emergency happens. Some schools might start practicing what to do in a shooting situation. I know in our child we practiced escape routes, etc. We talked a lot about what would happen if a bomber came to our program. We asked the kids to take some responsibility in helping us be on the look out. Kids will take their responsibility seriously. If presented wisely kids will be very mature about it all. We talked about keeping each other safe.
We also talked about what to do if a shooter should appear. We actually had some situations we had to prepare in advance for in regards to keeping all kids safe. We explained to the kids that we had safety measures in place.
Don’t be surprised if your child starts playing through various situations. Even 9, 10 and 11 year old kids will pull out the army men and other characters and play through their stress and fears. Stay on the sidelines, listen and observe. Just let them play through without interruptions. Bath time is another time kids will play through frustrations.
At any rate this has been my experience. I wish all of you the best in keeping your kids calm and safe. And remember your child might not even talk about it right now but they might bring it up months later. Be ready and prepared when it does come up.
Linda Ranson Jacobs
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Linda Ranson Jacobs
“Guess what? On Christmas Day my sister and me get to open our presents at mom’s house. Then I get to go to my dad’s house and he said he has a lot of presents for me. After we open presents at Dad’s then we are going to grandma’s house and I get to open more presents there. Presents, presents, presents. I must be the luckiest kid of all. I love Christmas!”
Whew! That sounds like an exciting and very busy day for a child. It also sounds like a day in which the baby Jesus gets left out. As a children’s minister don’t you worry about the true meaning of Christmas and this child? The birth of our Savior doesn’t seem to be amongst all the presents.
Down through the years as I’ve worked with children of divorce I’ve noticed that Christmas is either a very depressing time. Or it is one hyped up by the onslaught of gifts from guilty divorced parents trying to soothe their guilt. It is rare to find a single parent that has developed the ability to create normal holiday times for the children.
For some children holidays are painful reminders of how their family life used to be. Or they might be the children who have lived in two homes for years but something might have happened the past year to bring the hurts back to the forefront. This could be a new the announcement of a pending marriage of a parent or even the birth of a half sibling.
For these children church leaders need to pray for and with the child. It is a mistake to ignore the issues or to bury them. It is also a mistake to try and “happy up” a child just because it is Christmas. Saying something like,
“Oh come on, cheer up. It’s Christmas”
will only serve to drive the child deeper into self-doubt and confusion.
Allow the child to have a safe place to express what is bothering him or her. Assure the child that no matter what is happening that there is a Savior who will walk beside them. From that you can talk about the baby Jesus and why we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Empathy and understanding will help the child get through the holidays.
Many children of divorce will use Christmas to manipulate their guilty and sometimes warring parents to get what they want. For the child that is into how many gifts they are going to get, join in the excitement. Use pointed questions to open the door to the real meaning of Christmas.
An example might be,
“Oh my, you sure are excited about all those presents. What are you going to do with all of them?”
Gradually turn the conversation toward the most important gift of all, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It might be that the child has never really heard or understood why we celebrate Christmas.
Some children may only come every other Sunday so it will be hard to get them involved in celebrating Christmas.
It might mean you
Children in single parent homes don’t have the ability for one parent to take them shopping to buy a present for the other parent. And many won’t want to ask the parent they live with to give them money and take them shopping for the other parent.
Just a few extra things will help the child of divorce survive the holidays and learn about the true meaning of Christmas. If you are too busy then find someone who will take on ministering to the child of divorce at Christmas.
Written for Imagine Ministries, Jill Waltz www.imagineministries.org
© 2012 by the author
This publication is protected under U.S. Copyright laws [© Linda Ranson Jacobs, 2012] However, it is also a ministry to those who need it. While you may pass along this article freely, please check before reprinting anything in another publication. In most cases, all she requires is proper credit.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Nothing in this or other emails or materials from Linda Ranson Jacobs should be considered as psychological or legal advice. Linda is not a psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist, or lawyer. These suggestions are simply suggestions and not guaranteed solutions to your particular problems. Linda offers this information because she was a single mom for years and ran a child care where the majority of her children were from single parent families. She offers support, encouragement, and suggestions to help you succeed as a single parent.
Recently my friend Tiffany Crawford posted something on her blog that got me to thinking yet again about a controversial subject. (http://tiffanycrawford.org/2012/11/06/charismatic-churches-use-military-tactics/)
Maybe this subject is not controversial to anyone but me but that is probably because I’m one of the few people in children’s ministry and church work that thinks often about the child of divorce. The controversy is children’s church versus keeping children in big church, grown up church or simply worship service whatever you want to call it.
I am opposed to all the separating we do in churches today. It seems as though when a family comes to church the minute they enter the door everyone goes a different direction. While this might not be that big of an issue for two-parent families it can be a HUGE issue for single parent families. And I suspect it could be a big deal for two-parent families if they stopped to think about it.
I understand parents wanting their kids to attend children’s church because they want their children to have biblical concepts presented to them on their developmental level. And I understand parents want to worship and hear what is going one without being pestered or bothered by the children. However, I think kids should be in the church service with the parents at least occasionally; say at least once a month.
When my daughter was deployed to Afghanistan and I was living in their house helping with the grandchildren the kids attended church with me and my husband. They could have opted to go to the children’s departments but they chose to stay with us.
During the church service they played. They whispered. They dug in my purse for gum. They wrote on any paper they could find. But they also watched. They watched us pray. They watched me take notes and agree and sometimes disagree with the pastor. They watched us sing and worship. They watched Papa Bruce shake hands with others while he had his Bible tucked under his arm.
Then we saw it. We saw the 3 yr. old tuck his little notebook under his arm and walk around sticking out his little hand to shake hands with others. He was imitating his Papa Bruce. It was a blessing to behold.
We saw the 8 year old taking notes. We saw the teen slumping and pretending to not pay attention but we heard his conversation later in the week at the dinner table and while we were riding in the car together. He was hearing and getting it.
Children in single parent families need to be attuned to what is happening with their single parent regarding church and religion. These kids are exposed to two different homes and sometimes different religions.
I suspect my grandchildren didn’t want to be separated from me because I was a primary care giver during a stressful time in their lives. I was a connection to mom. They depended on me for emotional stability; for nurturing and for a lot of hugs and kisses.
The same holds true for children living with one parent. They need the physical presence of their parent with them in this building called a church. They need those few minutes a week or a month where they can connect with that parent with something that is bigger than their problems; bigger than their family issues and just plain bigger than them. They need church family.
I realize there are many that will vehemently disagree with me. That’s cool. All I ask is that you think about the child of divorce and the stress you might be adding to their lives when you separate them once again from their parent and from their siblings.
“All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace.” Isaiah 54:13 (NIV)
I posted this message under a different blog name. As an after thought I decided to make this more personal than professional. The professional blog will come later and I’ll let you know when it happens and where to find it. In the mean time enjoy my personal perspective about children of divorce and DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids.
So here we go. “A blogging we will go. A blogging we will go. Hi Ho the dairy-o a blogging we will go.”
I’ve decided it is time to start blogging about children of divorce. I wrote and developed DC4K. It is important for the religious world to learn about how they can help the child of divorce.
Many churches use DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids. DC4K is a 13-week video based and Christ centered program to help children heal from the devastation of the break up of their family unit.
DC4K uses games, art and craft projects, read aloud story and videos each week. Different learning styles are accommodated through the varied projects.
Churches that run DC4K are amazed by the healing these kids experience in such a short time. School teachers have noticed a difference in kid’s behaviors in kids who have attended DC4K. Sunday School teachers notice how kids are more attuned to the scriptures and pay attention to the bible stories after DC4K.
I developed an wrote the DC4K curriculum. I poured into it everything I had learned over 30 years in working with children of divorce. Many of the stories are based on my own children’s experience of growing up in a divorced home. Other I stories are gleaned from children’s experiences in a therapeutic child care that I ran for many years.
Stay tuned. I believe you will be blessed.
Divorce hit the American culture with a Bang in the seventies after Ronald Reagan signed the first no fault divorce law. Approximately a million children a year have experienced the divorce of their parents.
Now children are experiencing the separation of their co-habitating parents. Either way, a divorce or the separation of co-habitating parents, to the child it is the break up of their family unit. With it comes hurt, feelings of betrayal and confusion.
For 1 in 3 children today in order to say “Hello” to one parent, they have to say “Goodbye” to the to the other parent …. over and over again for the rest of their lives.
These children wonder if they will ever fell normal again. Their world is a world of confusion and frustration.
The hope for these children is the church and a relationship with Christ. Yet many of them are being left out or ignored by the church.
Be a children’s minister that reaches out to these children. The blessings are rich. The work is satisfying and the hugs are phenomenal.
Learn more at http://www.dc4k.org