How can chaos in a child’s environment lead to behavior problems in kids of divorce?


Hannah Child Protection Idea

“When my mom told me they were getting a divorce, I got confused. I didn’t understand what divorce was. I just knew my dad was moving out. I didn’t understand he was moving out ­– moving out. I thought he was visiting a friend for a few weeks. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me and my sister. I was scared. I mean what was happening to our home?”

To this child his entire world moved into a world of disorder and not knowing what was going to happen next. His mind became full of chaos. He couldn’t think, organize or keep things straight. This led to misbehaviors and those misbehaviors became the norm.

For these children chaos becomes the pattern in their brains and they appear to thrive on chaos. Like this child, children of divorce live lives marked by chaos and disorder.

A few of the things that cause a child’s world to be chaotic are

  • Loss of non-custodial parent
  • Loss of home
  • Going to new school
  • Lack of sleep
  • Loss of rules and consistency
  • Loss of normalcy

When you can understand the chaos and disorder many children of divorce experience it will help you to better understand some of the child’s actions and reactions.

Understanding what a child and their divorced parent have lost in the divorce process helps attune ones heart to empathy for these children.

Things you can do

  • Help them fit in with the group
  • Empower them with choices. It may seem awkward at first but once your understand the process it becomes routine. Everything becomes a choice. These choices cannot be one positive and a punitive choice. When you do that you are manipulating them and they will rebel. The choices should be positive choices where the child is actually making a decision.Examples of positive choices:Do you want to sit here or across the room?
    Do you want to hang your coat on the hook or keep it with you?
    Do you want to have snack now or wait?
    Do you want to sit or stand?

Adjusting your heart and mind set about the child of divorce helps you to stand in the gap and bring God’s unconditional love to kids that live in a conditional world.

Children attach themselves to their things and when their things disappear it affects them in profound ways.

There are a number of factors, which lead to chaos

  • Living with an exhausted parent
  • Living with a parent who is emotionally absent
  • Living stressed-out lives
  • Bounced back and forth between many care environments (two homes, grandparents, school, childcare, etc.)
  • Things in their lives begin to disappear such as favorite toys, beloved blanket, pets, etc.
  • Living arrangements – just gets comfortable and has to pack up and move to the other parent’s home
  • Living in a  home with a step parent and possibly step siblings

Ways to accommodate the disorganization they feel and the chaos they bring to class.

  • Routine and structure
  • Developing rituals such as hello handshake, goodbye ritual, etc.
  • Disorganization on the outside can lead to disorganization and chaos in the brain. Keep environments in an orderly fashion. Be cautious with decorations so they look organized and not thrown up haphazardly.
  • Use activities that will help the child de-stress such as stretching to music or putting motions to scriptures

As children begin to trust that you and your leaders are consistent they will begin to calm down in your environment. As you forge relationships with them, trust levels will increase. As they begin to trust you, you can introduce them to a Father who will never leave them or forsake them. You can pray with them about their behaviors. Ever sit down with and overactive child and pray with him or her? It is a powerful experience and one that will resonate with that child for a long time.


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.

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