Divorce hurts kids – literally divorce hurts


Divorce Hurts

Divorce hurts children in many ways. It affects every area of their lives. And hurting children hurt others.

When divorce hurts children to the very core, and there doesn’t seem to be any help or future for them, many times, they hurt others. They feel lost in a sea of adversity and confusion.

Today, we have

  • Infants and toddlers crying incessantly and refusing to be comforted
  • Preschool children raging, hitting, and biting other children
  • Elementary-age children hitting walls, hurting each other, and trying to hit their teachers and caregivers
  • Tweens becoming involved in substance use and early sexual experimentation
  • Teens lashing out at their parents and running to their peers, attempting suicide and trying to hurt their parents

In my personal experience, I’ve had teens succeed at committing suicide. I’ve watched on the sidelines as a young teen snuck out of her single mom’s house and eventually got pregnant. I’ve been privy to teens escaping into drugs and excessive alcohol consumption. I’ve heard the testimonies of single moms whose tweens and teens are screaming, cursing, and hitting them.

Think divorce doesn’t hurt? Think again.

Physical pain

Scientists now believe that emotional pain hurts just like physical pain. Several years ago, doctors at John Hopkins University reported a rare but lethal heart condition caused by acute emotional distress. Technically, it’s known as “stress cardiomyopathy,” but the press and many of us like to call it a “broken heart syndrome,” and medical professionals don’t object to the nickname. In other words, people can die from a broken heart.

Using brain-imaging techniques, doctors have located the area in the brain where emotional pain shows up. They also found that, when asked to recall physical pain, participants could remember the pain, but nothing happened in the brain. When the participants remembered emotional pain, though, their brains lit up. Literally, divorce hurts.

I don’t know of any children who have died from “stress cardiomyopathy,” but I do know that they hurt. I’ve had more than one child point to their heart and tell me that their heart hurts. One little kindergartner told me he thought he was having a heart attack shortly after his dad moved out.

Culture of rejection

In 1950, for every 100 children born that year, 12 entered broken families. Four were born out of wedlock, and 8 to divorcing families. By the year 2000, that number had risen five-fold, and for every 100 children born, 60 entered broken families. Of these, 33 children were born out of wedlock, and 27 children suffered the divorce of their parents. This information comes from Changing a “Culture of Rejection”

Patrick Fagan, the author of the report cited, stated that essentially, in our society, over 50 years children went from being a part of a “culture of belonging” to being part of a “culture of rejection.”

When you think about it, that’s a very sobering thought—children feeling like they are in a culture of rejection. When I talk to adult children of divorce, many share that this is how they felt. And you want to know the place where they felt the most rejection when their parents divorced? It was the church.

Children need a lot from church leaders. I think that church leaders can turn the tide of divorce in the future. That is—if we learn how to work with and minister effectively to these children.

Churches failed the children of divorce in the 1970s and 1980s. This entire generation was raised outside the realms of the church family. Now, we are paying the price. But what if we could turn this situation around? What if we could attract these adult children of divorce back to the church and help them raise their children in the Lord?

I believe we can.

Solution ministries for children of divorce

Here are just a few of the things children of divorce need from the church today:

  • Biblically based, Christ-centered curriculums
  • Wake-up call to the crisis of moment-by-moment survival
  • Long-term commitment and follow-through with these children. Some research shows that it takes many children around ten years to process their parents’ divorce and regain a sense of normalcy.
  • Outreach to the single parent
  • Comfort for the children through mentoring and understanding

We need to change the overall mindset of congregations, ministers, and children’s leaders. Help congregations understand the consequences of divorce and that they are not short-term.

Our society has pulled away from God’s design for the family—the family unit and the church family. Maybe it’s time we got back to the principles set forth by our Heavenly Father.

I believe that it takes a village to raise a child, and for children of divorce, that village should be the church.

Children of divorce are mourning their once-intact families, and you may be the only one that holds the key to the kingdom for these children.

Share your comments and thoughts please.


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