How silence shatters dreams for the child of divorce



Every child has dreams and when parents divorce or break up, silence from the adults in their lives can tend to destroy the dreams in a normal child centered environment. All children are self-centered. That’s how God made us – to depend on our parents and other adults.

However, when there is a crisis such as a divorce, kids need people to talk to them and explain what is happening and what’s going to happen. Children don’t need silence from the very people they depend upon to help them through the rough patches of life.

Many divorcing parents don’t know what to say to their child so they don’t say much. Some will sit the kids down and tell them they are getting a divorce but they stop short of explaining exactly what that means.

What does getting a divorce mean?

  • Does it mean one parent is moving out?
  • Does it mean you’ll never get to see the other parent?
  • Does it mean the parent no longer loves you? The child thinks if the parents fell out of love with each other then they very well could fall out of love with the child too.
  • Who is going to take care of me as in love me, feed me, keep me safe and put me to bed at night?
  • Was this separation my fault?
  • What did I do to cause my parents to not want to live together anymore?

Telling the kids

The first time the parents set the children down and tell them about the divorce it is good to keep it short. If possible have both parents there and tell the kids together. Ask the kids if they have any questions. Then set a time to meet again. This way the kids know there will be time to think through and formulate their questions for both parents.

Kids need answers to their questions.

Silence from the adults also perpetuates broken dreams.

  • When parents don’t talk about the future it leaves the child wondering what their future is going to be like.
  • Older kids may wonder if this break up means they won’t get to go to college.
  • Younger kids wonder if they might not get to play soccer, football or other sports activities.
  • All their dreams become threatened when there is an impending divorce.

One minister friend told me he was twelve when his parents split up. He was the one who found his dad with another woman. He said he had so many questions but no one to answer his questions.

  • Are we going to have to move?
  • If dad leaves who will give us money to buy groceries?
  • What happens to mom when dad leaves? Will she get a job?
  • What kind of work can mom do because she’s never worked before?
  • Will I ever get over seeing my dad with another woman?
  • Why would he do this to us?

Telling their story

Children church workers can fill in the gap for some of these children. Some kids need to be encouraged to tell their story. Explain to the children that we all have stories to tell. You might start out by telling them a story about something that happened to you.

  • Purchase some journaling books and encourage the children to write their stories.
  • You could start off having them write their memories of their preschool years.
  • Encourage good memories.
  • This will help them remember their parents enjoyed each other and enjoyed doing things with them also.
  • Next have the older elementary age child write about their kindergarten and first grade years.
  • Writing about fun things will help them write about the not so fun things they are now experiencing.

If a child doesn’t want to write, have them draw pictures and tell you their stories. If there is time and space, have the kids meet to share their stories with each other. There is healing in knowing that someone else is experiencing something like you are experiencing.

In DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids, kids get to tell their stories. As one little boy told his grandmother, “Yeah, I like DC4K because everyone gets to tell their business.” The grandmother asked, “What about you. What do you do?” He said, “Oh! I tell my business too.”

DC4K is helping children heal from the devastation of divorce and move forward in their lives. They get to connect with other children who are experiencing the same thing. They connect and bond with each other and with the leaders. They learn about the Christ that loves them and they come to know a God that will never leave them or forsake them.

Silence from the important people in a child’s life shatters their dreams.

This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on Dec 3, 2014.

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