lindaransonjacobs

Personal perspective and research about the child of divorce

Tag: DivorceCare

Exuberant Kids at Christmas

Linda Ranson Jacobs
http://www.dc4k.org

“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

  • Send a special Christmas card addressed to each child in the family wishing them a Merry Christmas
  • Mail an invitation announcing any Christmas activities at church
  • Find a willing volunteer to give them a call and wish them a Merry Christmas
  • Find out if they have enough to eat during the holidays and take food in for a Christmas dinner. Include some special treats for the kids
  • Explore the family’s situation to see if the single parent they live with has any extra funds to purchase something for their children at Christmas. Perhaps special gifts could be donated and taken to the house for Christmas.
  • Provide a way for the children to purchase or make a special gift for the parent they live with or even for both parents.

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

Linda Ranson Jacobs ljacobs@hlp4.com
DC4K Ambassador www.dc4k.org
ljacobs@dc4k.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.

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Children of Divorce and Church Services

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)

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