Question of the week: Does divorce define who a child is?


I’m divorced,” says the seven year old little girl

We’re divorced, my mom and me,” says an eight- year-old boy.

When my dad and I got our divorce…….” Says the ten-year-old girl

Why would children say these kinds of thing? They didn’t get the divorce.

However, you can hear many children up through tweens and young teens saying this. Some kids wear the word “divorce” like a badge of honor. It has been bestowed upon them and they will wear it whether they like the divorce or not. To many children, divorce defines who they are.

Most children understand that they exist because their parents loved each other. Because they loved each other a child was born out of this love. The child is part mom and part dad.

Then the divorce happens. The child is now no longer from one marital unit living together in one place and loving each other but part of two separate units living in two separate places and not loving each other.

It is important for the child’s well being and their future to help them realize divorce doesn’t define who they are. We have to help them realize they are more than the trauma of divorce that they have lived through.

In one of my DC4K groups I had a boy who couldn’t seem to move past his anger over the divorce. After several weeks I began to realize he couldn’t address his anger until he got past the word “divorce” and the fact that he thought it was defining who he was.

What you can do

  • For the child who couldn’t get past the divorce, I took him aside and drew a big circle and put his name in the middle of it. I had him list all the things he liked to do. We put all these things around the circle. I then pointed to each thing and asked him the question “Is this who you are? Soccer? Baseball?” He soon realized that all of these things make up a part of who he is. None of them defined him. Slowly you could see the reality dawn on his face. Divorce wasn’t who he was. Divorce was a part of his life. His parents were divorced; he was not.
  • For other children it means explaining to a child exactly what divorce means. It means that mom and dad will no longer be living together. They no longer love each other. As adults we think kids know and understand what this thing called “divorce” is. But many don’t know. They hear their mom or dad say, “We are divorced now.” So the child thinks they are divorced also. I’ve had little kids come to DC4K and not really know or understand what a divorce is. You also need to remember that many times the parents are so upset they forget to explain exactly what is going to take place during this thing called divorce.
  • Use the child’s name as much as possible. Research tells us that hearing one’s own name is an attention grabber. Research also tells us that when people hear their own names there is an increase in blood flow to the part of the brain that plays a role in our processing of “self”. Children of divorce especially need help processing “self.”
  • Help a child realize who he or she is in Christ. Introduce these children to a God’s whose love is unconditional. Acquaint them with God’s son Jesus. Explain that God gave His son for us and Jesus loved each of us so much that he died on a cross for our sins. This helps the child comprehend that he or she too can have a life in Christ.
  • Let children know they are part of Gods’ family and also part of a church family. Being part of God’s family and the church family helps take the emphasis off of being part of a family unit that split into two pieces. We see this is DC4K all the time. It is as if the DC4K family becomes their special family unit as they work through the issues of their parents being divorced.

Back to the original question, does divorce define who a child is? It certainly doesn’t have to and it shouldn’t– but many times it does.






2 thoughts on “Question of the week: Does divorce define who a child is?

  1. The truth is, whether we are young or old, we will define ourselves by our experiences and by what other flawed human beings have told us.
    The truth is, we are who God says we are; nothing more and nothing less. When we truly get that, our identity lies in Him. What freedom there is in that!
    I love the circle idea, Linda! We do it on 3×5 cards for our “Chained No More” participants.

    • And we have to help the child understand who he or she is in Christ. As you know many times the parents are too overwhelmed at the moment to explain that to the child who hears the parent say, “We are divorced.” Thanks for your input and I imagine those Chained No More 3×5 cards are full.

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