How do you meet a child’s emotional quota?


Many of us in children’s ministry have worried about children of divorce and whether their emotional needs are being met. Often, we ask,

  1. How do they cope with living in two homes?
  2. How do they get their emotional needs met when their parents are stressed to the max or still fighting and warring over their “things”?

Children in divorced homes may need more help than children in other homes.

  • We know children need empathy during this time.
  • They need people outside the home or both homes who understand what they are experiencing.
  • They need connections with important people in their lives. When their parents are under stress or still warring over the divorce, kids need other people, such as grandparents, children’s ministers, and church volunteers, to stand in the gap.
  • If the parents have been divorced for some time, they may have lapsed into getting their own emotional needs met. If the teachers at school aren’t calling on a regular basis to report unruly behavior, many parents think the kids are okay.
  • Children of divorce need strong Christian relationships with adults who will mentor them and model emotionally healthy relationships.
  • They need caring people who will ask them questions, respond to their needs, and shower them with positive attention.

For long-term survival, children must have their emotional needs met. Think of it as filling children’s emotional quota. This emotional quota needs to be filled daily with

  • Loving comments
  • Understanding
  • Compassionate connections
  • God’s word

These children need to know that God loves them unconditionally. They need to understand the forever love of a heavenly Father who will never forsake them. They need Christ as their personal Savior. As one little kid told me,

Jesus is my BFF.

Another said,

I tell Jesus I love Him every day!

Parents try to fill children’s emotional quota with things

Unfortunately, many of these children have parents who simply don’t understand their emotional needs. They tend to try and buy their children’s attention. Many try to out buy the other parent and thus ensues a war of materialistic inventory in each home.

Children are smart, and they learn very quickly to play one parent against the other to get the material things they want. To these children, the world is something to be bought. Unfortunately, their emotional buckets stay empty.

If we want children of divorce to have their emotional needs met

  • We need to help single parents and those ministering to children of divorce.
  • We need to help adults understand the importance of filling all children’s emotional buckets, so they will grow into emotionally healthy, compassionate adults.

These are the children who will further the Kingdom because they have experienced a family crisis early in life and survived. They understand family dysfunction and the need for Christ in every child’s life.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on July 28, 2014.

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  1. Pingback: DC4K » With VBS coming up, attitudes and conversations can make a difference when you have a rambunctious group of kids

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