Question of the week: How do you prepare your child for the disruption of their schedule?


Anyone who ministers to children of divorce will come across this issue at some point. Most of these kids struggle with chaotic schedules. Even as they need consistency, they cope with unstable and fluid timetables, a byproduct of separation or divorce.

Past posts have addressed the importance of consistent schedules for the child of divorce:

At the beginning of the school year there was a blog post on the importance of schedules for when school starts.

Before we changed to Daylight Savings Time, there was a post on how confusing the change in time can be to children in divorced homes.

Last fall there was a post about the two most difficult days out of the entire year for children of divorce. Those two days are the day after we go on DST and the day after we go off DST.

Having consistent schedules and daily routines for children who have experienced a trauma is of utmost importance. For many children the trauma of a divorce is equal to a tsunami. The divorce hits and changes the landscape of the home forever. Nothing is ever the same again including their daily schedules and familiar routines.

When the world is in chaos routines and schedules go flying out the window. The chaos I describe could be something they hear on the news, something that happens in the community, in their neighborhood or in the home itself. For children of divorce and other crisis it can be any or all of these things.

Preparing kids for disruption of their schedules when a divorce occurs

The child views divorce as a crisis. Children’s ministers and church leaders can do the following to help the child when a divorce is imminent.

  • Encourage the single parent to stay in the family home if possible.
  • While keeping the same routine they had in a two parent home probably won’t be possible, each parent needs to determine what changes are going to take place that might affect the daily routine they used to have.
  • Take the single parent aside and help him or her work through changes that are going to take place when they will be parenting alone.
  • Encourage the parent to sit the child down and explain how and why things are going to be different. For example, “Mom is not going to be able to take you to school and pick you up like we did before dad moved out so we will get you registered at the before school program at your school.”
  • Help the new single parent write out a daily routine and include daily activities and chores the children will need to do.
  • Encourage the single parent to post the new daily routine in a prominent place in the home so all can see and refer to it.
  • Encourage the single parent to post up and coming schedules next to the daily routine chart. (A schedule will be a list of events coming up such as visitation or a visit to grandparents.)
  • If possible encourage both parents to have similar daily routines in each home and to try and cooperate as much as possible any time there needs to be a change in schedules.
  • Set up consistent visitation schedules

Preparing a child for spring breaks and other interruptions

While most kids get excited about spring break, summer break and other breaks from school for the child of divorce these breaks can cause insecurities and even depression.

The child is used to the daily “sameness” routines bring to them. They may dread not knowing how the next few days or weeks are going to be spent.

What you can do as a church leader

  • Help the single parent realize school breaks are coming up by making announcements in the church bulletins and sending texts and emails to all parents. (While most of us can’t imagine not realizing a school holiday is coming up single parents many times are so overwhelmed they simply don’t realize there isn’t going to be school the next week or next month.)
  • Help the single parent to develop a conversation he or she can have with the children to make them aware they will be well taken care of and safe during the school break.
  • As a help to single parents, plan fun activities during school breaks. Plan far in advance so single parents and children can look forward to taking part in a fun activity.

Long-term interruption of schedules

Even after a divorcing home gets on a consistent daily routine and plans for changes in schedules things happen that are out of the parent’s control. For some situations you can’t prepare a child.

Situations such as

  • Storms, floods, hurricanes
  • House fires
  • Sudden death of a loved one

In these situations it is important to get them on a schedule and quickly develop a daily routine as soon as possible. It is not going to be the same daily routine as before but kids will adapt when it is consistent day in and day out.

How do you prepare a child for such a drastic change in schedules?

  • Talk to the children about what happened
  • Be truthful on the children’s developmental level
  • Do not allow the TV news to be on all the time
  • Let the children know they are safe. You can only assure them they are safe in the moment you are in at that time
  • Allow the elementary age child to contribute to the routine by asking what they think they should do first everyday. What should happen next, etc.
  • Write out the daily routine so all can see it. Keep in mind children under stress may need pictures or icons so they can process what they are viewing
  • Go over the daily routine verbally several times and for several days in a row.
  • Go over any changes in schedule that is going to take place. For example, “Instead of going to child care tomorrow you will be going next door to the neighbor’s home.”

Understand there is no quick fix. Whether it is a universal issue, a local issue or something that happens in the home, healing and recouping from a crisis takes time. Sometimes it takes years.

Consistent daily routines and thought out schedules will go along way in bringing security to any child.





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