Have you ever played the Baggage Game?



Have you ever thought about the baggage a child of divorce carries around with them? I’m not talking about the backpacks or suitcases. I’m talking about the heavy stuff, the emotional stuff the things that weigh down their minds and make their hearts heavy.

When I’m out doing workshops for children’s ministers and church leaders I like to have the participants play the “Baggage Game”. The Baggage game is a twist on the old “Rock, Paper, Scissors” game that most of us played as a kid.

How to play paper, rock scissors

  • You may remember that you have a partner and each of you pounds your right fist into the palm of your left hand.
  • You pound three times counting 1, 2, 3 and on the 4th pound you make your right hand into a rock (fisted hand), a paper (flat hand) or a pair of scissors (two open fingers.)

The thought is that paper beats a rock because it can wrap a rock. Scissors beats paper because they can cut paper. And a rock beats scissors because it can crush a pair of scissors.

Baggage game

The Baggage game is played like paper, rock, scissor but when one of the partners loses they have to get behind the winner, putting their Workshophands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Those two people find another group to play paper rock scissors. What starts as two partners quickly becomes four people, six, ten, etc. The line grows longer and longer until everyone in the room is in one long line.

While everyone laughs and has fun playing the game we quickly realize the winner isn’t really a winner but a simulated child that has to carry all of the heavy baggage around with him or her. The line of baggage snakes around the room. It is cumbersome to move such a large line of baggage, aka people. After we get down to one line I ask participants,

“If you were a child of divorce name one piece of baggage you have brought to this line with you.”

Here are just a few of the answers that people have come up with in this thought provoking game.

  • Mom is too busy with her boyfriend to notice me
  • Want to see my grandparents but mom says ugly things about them
  • Dad won’t let me talk about my mom and I miss her
  • My stepdad touches me inappropriately
  • I’ve had to move 5 times and I don’t want to start another new school
  • Haven’t seen my cousins in 2 years
  • I don’t trust anyone
  • My mom hits me a lot
  • My dad never talks to me, he only watches TV or is his phone or computer
  • I watch a lot of porn with my stepdad
  • I miss going to my church
  • I’m very lonely
  • I hate school because I’m bullied
  • I’m so angry I want to punch everyone in the face and make them hurt like I hurt
  • I don’t fit in at church because I don’t get to go on a regular basis
  • I can’t memorize scriptures
  • I have to take care of my baby sister and brother and I’m tired all the time
  • I’m scared at night when mom leaves me alone
  • I’ve had to give away almost all my toys
  • I have no pictures of my dad or my aunts, grandparents and cousins on his side of the family

The list can go on and on. I then ask the following questions

  • Can you understand why this child can’t think rationally?
  • Can you feel how heavy all of this baggage is?
  • Do you comprehend how cumbersome it is to drag all of this baggage around?
  • Can you understand when you say to a child that enters your room, “Go hang up your coat and join the other kids in the circle” that you look to see the child sitting in the circle with their coat on or they are sitting under the coat hook?
  • Do you understand these children are under so much stress that they are barely surviving the moment let alone be able to make plans for future events at church?

Here are some comments people who have played the baggage game have made

  • Don’t assume you know how much baggage a kid is carrying.
  • How fast the baggage accumulates and it goes from simple to difficult.
  • It seems like it adds up so fast but it is so hard to let go.
  • How difficult it must be for a child to release all of this stress and heavy stuff.
  • We need to figure out how to teach a child there is freedom in allowing God to take over burdens.
  • Makes me want to connect with a child and attempt to let her know she doesn’t have to carrying it all alone.
  • How do we tell a child to let go and let God?


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on March 19, 2015.

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