Clutter stresses children of divorce. What you can do to help them.


wastepaper basket

Many children of divorce live hectic, frenzied lives. This is partly because they live in two separate homes with different sets of rules, schedules, rituals, and people in the home. At the beginning of the divorce, their stress can be over the top as their minds are filled with chaos.

Children with stressed-filled lives need clean, plain, simplistic decoration in their environment. Too many colors, shapes, and decor can clutter the brain. Kids miss any intended message because the visual stimulation is too great. If they have ADHD, all that stimulation is too much for their brains to handle. Some children of divorce mimic ADHD symptoms, and the same amount of stimulation can also be too much for them to handle.

It is great that churches want to spice up their children’s ministry rooms with visual scenes and lots of bright colors, but for many children of divorce (and those with several diagnosed behavior disorders), that visual stimulation actually takes away from their ability to listen and focus.

  • These children need calming colors around them.
  • Sky blue, lavender, or a soothing shade of green works best to calm chaotic kids.
  • Yellow and red are great to stimulate creativity but also tend to excite children. These are also the colors that stimulate the appetite and are great when you want to encourage a child to eat. (Think major fast-food places and yellow arches.)

Clutter—you know, that mess that’s been building up in the corner the past few weeks—can cause confusion and actually add to disorder and behavior issues in some children. Cleaning up the clutter goes a long way to calm children who live in stress-filled, divorcing families.

Another point to think about: what message does it send to the child of divorce when it’s time for VBS, but the Easter decorations are still hanging on the wall? These kids are hypersensitive to feeling unwanted, so it communicates to them that they are not wanted at church either, and the leaders have not prepared for their attendance.

When multiple ministries use the same facilities, it can add to the frustration of keeping clutter to a minimum. Invest in some plastic storage bins or those three-drawer storage units that can be rolled to a closet or simply turned around so the drawers face the wall. Make it a policy that each ministry takes responsibility to put away things at the end of the session.

Cleaning up clutter will go a long way in helping children of divorce organize their thoughts and will contribute to their calmer behaviors. Brain research shows that some children need people to help with external regulation so they can regulate internally.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on May 7, 2014.

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