It’s hard when kids leave for visitation. How can you help the single parent?



This is a tough issue. I have to confess I didn’t handle this one very well when I was a single parent. The first few times my children left for the weekend, I was lost and hurting. I have learned over the years how to approach this dilemma.

This is one of those issues that unless you’ve experienced it or walked with someone experiencing it, it’s hard to understand how upsetting this can be. Don’t give up, though, because you can be the catalyst that helps single parents when no one else can.

As a children’s minister or church leader, have you thought how you will minister to these parents?

  • How will you comfort them?
  • What will you say to encourage them?
  • What if it has been an abusive situation, and the parent is literally afraid to let the children go visit the other parent? Or is afraid the other parent won’t return the kids?

What to do

  1. These single parents need empathy. They need you to understand they have a panicked feeling building up inside them. Many wonder if they will ever see their children again. Some worry their children will have a better time at the other parent’s home and want to live with that parent.
  2. Find out what the court orders say. You don’t need to know all the sordid details but just what the orders say about visitation.
  3. Tell single parents they must abide by what judges have ordered. It might not seem fair, but sometimes we must trust the legal system. Amazingly this can actually be comforting to many divorcing parents.
  4. Remind single parents children have a right to see and know the other parent. That doesn’t mean children will no longer love them. Children are capable of loving both parents.
  5. Many children cry when leaving the first few times, so the parent may think they cry the entire time they are gone. Help single parents understand that transitions are hard on kids. Yes, it is hard to leave their mom, but more than likely once children have adjusted, and their mom is no longer in sight, they have a good time with the other parent.
  6. Help parents understand that schedule changes, different foods, and leaving the other parent to come back home can all be causes for cranky kids.
  7. Walk alongside these lonely single parents by praying with them and checking in every so often during the first few weekends they are alone.
  8. Encourage single parents to trust God. Encourage them in their faith walk.
  9. Pray for this parent, the children, and the other parent. Everyone is in a transition time. Pray for peace and comfort for all.
  10. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom as you either minister to this family or seek for another person to minister to them.

What not to say

It might be prudent to educate all of your children’s volunteers on what not to say. They may have more contact with single parents on a weekly basis. Print out this article, and hand it to all of your children’s teachers and volunteers, including those in the infant and toddler areas.

Many courts are awarding overnight infant visits.

  1. “God will get you through this. After all, He never gives you more than you can handle.” The person says this like it is a Scripture you must abide and believe. When I was raising my children alone, I learned God always gives you more than you can handle simply because He wants you to believe in Him and trust Him. But many single parents don’t have a strong faith walk, and a statement like this one can be very confusing.
  2. “Oh, don’t worry. After all, you were married to him or her at one point, so he or she can’t be too bad.”
  3. “Go out, and enjoy yourself. Have fun.”
  4. “It’s only a few days. Get over it!”
  5. “I bet your kids won’t even miss you while they’re gone.”

Not having your children with you can be difficult. The first few times children leave to visit the other parent, it is different than allowing your children to spend the weekend with friends or relatives. For many divorcing parents, it feels like they are sending the child to the enemy camp. While most of us realize this is not true, it is still what parents are feeling. It will take time and a few visitations for parents to realize they and their children will survive.

If your church has DivorceCare, encourage divorcing parents to get involved. This support group helps and encourages single parents as they heal and recover from divorce. If your church doesn’t offer DivorceCare, go to the DivorceCare link, and use the Find a Group search engine to find a group near you.

Another great program for those learning how to be single parents is Single & Parenting. This program gives single parents a support group where they can tell their stories and hear from other single parents about how they handle various situations.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on July 25, 2014.

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2 thoughts on “It’s hard when kids leave for visitation. How can you help the single parent?

  1. When my daughter started visiting her father, I could not sleep!! It did eventually get better, it took time though!

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