Question of the week: How do I answer questions from a parent who is in the middle of divorce conflict?


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It’s Sunday morning crunch time, and you get an almost unanswerable question from a divorcing parent. More than likely, his kids are out of control due to the divorce, and he desperately needs help. How do you respond to such questions?

One children’s minister asked for help in just such a scenario: “Give me a few short phrases that I can remember and can use with some of the divorcing people in my church. I want to help them, but they usually catch me on Sunday morning when I’m rushed to get things done and greet people.”

This children’s minister is like a lot of you. He doesn’t want to ignore the hurting parent. He wants to help, but he is struggling to come up with empathetic things to say on the spur of the moment.

Here are 5 “Stop” phrases and sentences you can memorize quickly to say on the spur of the moment. Think of these as Stop Signs!

Stop Signs

  1. Stop talking to your ex about anything except the kids and finances.
  2. Stop trying to be friends with your ex right now. That can come later when both of you have adjusted and healed.
  3. Stop fretting and worrying. Let God be your redeemer. “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:8 (NIV)
  4. Stop talking to other people about your divorce. Find one or two confidants who will listen to you. And join a DivorceCare group where you can talk to people who can relate to what you are experiencing.
  5. Stop allowing the divorce to define who you are. Divorce is a situation; is it not who you are. You are a child of God, and there will be life after the divorce.

Some children who are out of control can begin to heal once the divorcing parent stops all the arguing and confrontations with the ex. Until the war between the parents stops, some children may continue to be out of control. Help the parent move forward with some of these phrases.

Later, when life is calmer for you, and you aren’t pressed as much as you are on a Sunday morning, give the parent a call. Ask how he is doing. If possible, arrange a time to visit. Every so often, text words of encouragement, and include short Scriptures that will bring hope to what many divorcing parents seems to be a hopeless situation.

One word of caution: you may have to repeat some of these phrases several times, and the first Stop Sign might be the most used one of all.

IMPORTANT NOTE: These stop phrases are not intended to cut off productive communication that could lead to reconciliation of the marriage. They are designed to help defuse immediate tensions for the benefit of the children. Opportunities for reconciliation may actually be enhanced by such a ceasefire. We encourage all in ministry to look for opportunities to promote reconciliation.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog May 5, 2014.

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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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