Helpful tip #2 for starting the school year: Why rituals are important for the child of divorce


Stressed little girl with pile of books around


When parents divorce, children are more likely to lose their connections with those around them. Many of us in know that children are born to connect. We have observed and watched as children become disconnected. Many problems facing young people today are due in large part to our failure to meet the children’s most basic human need for connectedness.

Divorce brings many changes to the child.

  • The child loses the two-parent home and access to both parents under the same roof.
  • The children may experience the loss of their self-esteem and their sense of well-being.
  • They may lose a lifestyle.
  • They lose their things, and some even lose the home they have always known.
  • Children may attach themselves to their things, and then when those things disappear, the children get confused.
  • Children lose rituals between them and a parent.

Connecting through rituals

With the divorce rate, our families have only gotten weaker. While we may not be able to stop the divorce rate immediately, we can assist the children and go to battle for them in this world of confusion. We can make the children stronger by connecting with them. We can help them start off the new school year with rituals at church.

Why do rituals need to be replaced for the child of divorce?

  • Rituals are a living history.
  • Children of divorce lose their family’s living history or at the very least that history is altered.
  • Children need to create rituals they can pass on to their children someday.

Dr. Becky Bailey who wrote Conscious Discipline says, “Rituals are the emotional glue that holds relationships together.”

Since so many children’s relationships become strained and even nonexistent through the divorce, they need to be able to develop new points of connections. They need to connect. And they need to connect often.

Rituals bring predictability

Another aim for rituals, as far as children are concerned, is predictability.

  • Children from divorced homes need predictability.
  • They need to know they can depend on specific things happening at a specific time.
  • They have the perception that their lives are out of control and in disarray.
  • Predictability lends itself to security.
  • Rituals involve that special feeling of connecting with another human being.

Rituals allow us to connect with each other in an emotional, intimate way. Children in divorced homes are losing the ability to explore and take part in rituals.

As church leaders, you can help children and single parents develop healthy rituals. This can be especially advantageous when children have to travel between two homes. In Rituals for Our Times authors Evan Imber-Black and Janine Roberts state,

“The movement of children from one household to another requires special attention to the rituals of leaving and returning, as these express more complicated issues of family membership, loyalty or unresolved conflicts between parents. Children may receive the hidden message that they are not to express sadness in leaving one household to go to another and their good-bye ritual should be swift or secretive.”

As church leaders, think of ways to create rituals with the children in your groups. It might be a hello ritual or a good-bye ritual. Almost anything can be turned into a ritual of connection, if the focus is on the relationship.

Help a child get started off on the right foot in the new school year be creating rituals in your group and sharing ideas for rituals with your single parents.

For a more in depth article on rituals see “Why are rituals important for the child of divorce.”

What are some rituals you’ve developed to use with the kids in your ministry?


DC4K blogs posts are great to use in training children’s leaders and volunteers and they are free.  Subscribe to the DC4K blog here.

Want to learn more about how to start a DivorceCare for Kids group for the hurting children in your community? Click here.

2 thoughts on “Helpful tip #2 for starting the school year: Why rituals are important for the child of divorce

  1. Linda, Thank you for your invaluable contributions to those of us “coming along side” of you. Your knowledge is appreciated, as well as your sharing. We will start our 20th year of teaching and counseling these hurting families. Sometimes it feels like no one else cares. You are a blessing. And may God bless you.
    Bob Collins

    • Bob, your comment means so much to me. Thank you. I have always appreciated the work you do. Congrats on the 20 year milestone. 🙂

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