Question of the week: Do you know what to listen for when ministering to the child of divorce?



DC4K-listen kids divorce

Children’s ministry people have said to me, “I don’t know anything about divorce, and I’m not sure I would pick up on clues a child might be giving me.”

How does one know how to discern what is bothering the child when the parents are separating or divorced?

Let me share with you a personal story that will help you understand how important it is to learn to listen.

When I was in college, there was a girl in our dorm who was blind and walked with a cane. Our dorm was a quite far distance from the education buildings. We had to walk on sidewalks where sprinklers would almost always go off when everyone was rushing to class. While most of us got wet, our friend who walked with her cane tap-tapping never got one drop of water on her.

She would stand at the beginning of the sidewalk and wait. As the sprinklers came on, she would stand very still, listening, and after a short while, she would take off. She knew what to listen for as she stood there. Once she started walking, her pace never changed. It was quite amazing to watch as one spray of water would circle around right after she walked by, and the one she was coming upon would amazingly move forward as she approached that area.

You might say her survival depended on her not getting wet and her cane getting slippery. She never missed a step, she never stumbled or slipped, and she was probably the only completely dry student on campus on days when the water sprinklers went off.

Why am I telling you this story? Because there is a lesson to be learned from my blind friend, and that is we have to learn to listen to the kids.

  • We have to consciously listen to the conversation when kids are talking to us or to one another.
  • Stop and observe children when they are talking.
  • Look for signs of distress on their faces.
  • Watch their body language. Is their voice saying everything is fine, but might their nervous fidgeting be telling you something else?
    • Is it a shared-parenting situation in which the child spends equal time with each parent—which is the norm now in many states?
    • Is it a situation where the child lives with one parent but visits the other parent on weekends or other scheduled visitation?
    • Does the other parent live out of state and only get to see the child on long holidays or in the summer when the child is out of school?
    • Is it possibly a situation where the other parent lives in the same area but rarely sees the child?
    • Is there a new stepparent on the scene in either home?
  • Know in advance where children live.
  • As you listen carefully, learn to ask open-ended questions that will keep children talking.

As you listen, ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand how to minister to this child. For example, does the child make up stories and talk about a mom who is not in his life? Realizing this will help you discern how you can help and minister to this child. Perhaps finding an older female who can mentor the child from a female’s perspective will help.

Coming up next week: What do I do if I suspect a child of divorce is being abused or neglected?


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on June 30, 2014.

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