Question of the Week: When a child of divorce has behavior problems, should I call the parents?


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I get asked this question a lot. Usually, it is from a children’s minister or the person overseeing a church event, such as Vacation Bible School. I know immediately if this person has an understanding of children of divorce by whether he does or does not put the “s” on the end of parents.

Rarely are children of divorce brought to church by both parents. It is also unusual for both parents to attend the same church. If the person in charge does have an understanding of children of divorce, he will say, “Should I call in the child’s parent when the child acts up?”

Usually, I do not encourage church leaders to call the child’s parent to come and take the child out of class. There are a couple of reasons I say this. First of all, the single divorcing parent needs to be fed spiritually. The parent needs time with other adults.

Second, many single parents can’t help you help their child. They are probably struggling at home with the child’s behavior. They don’t know what to tell you. The child, too, is more than likely having problems at school and other places. This is especially true when the divorce first happens.

Here is a scenario many children’s ministers don’t think about. What if the parent who brought the child to church only has the child on the weekend or every other weekend? The parent doesn’t get to “raise” this child and doesn’t have much say in discipline issues. If that parent gets embarrassed by the child’s behavior, he very well might not bring the child back to church.

Some of the main reasons children of divorce have discipline problems at church are:

  • They don’t feel safe and are fearful.
  • They don’t feel like they belong.
  • They come from a chaotic environment and bring the chaos with them.
  • They do not have relationships with teachers, volunteers, or church staff.
  • They come irregularly and haven’t learned what is expected of them in this particular environment.

For the most part, I do not encourage calling in the parent when the child acts up. I strongly encourage you to deal with the situation on your own. Pray, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom. Read other articles on this blog to get ideas on what to do in different situations.

What are some discipline situations you face when ministering to children of divorce?


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on March 17, 2014.

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