Children caught in the middle



Allow me to share this story I think will help you understand how hard it sometimes is to move forward in life.

One spring day, I was walking in my neighborhood. As I rounded the curve, I noticed a little girl who looked to be about five years old playing outside while her mom worked in the yard. When I came back around the next time, the little girl was dragging out a large tub. As I passed by her house, she began to pull out the garden hose.

My third time around the block, the hose was in the bucket, water was spilling out over the sides, and the little girl was nowhere to be seen. In a moment, she came running out of the house wearing what appeared to be last year’s swimsuit. Evidently, she had grown quite a lot over the winter.

  • She gleefully jumped in the tub of water.
  • She tried to sit down in the tub.
  • She stood, got out of the tub, and walked around looking at it.
  • With a look of determination, she took a running jump and headed for the water again.
  • No matter how hard she tried, she no longer fit in that small tub.

The little girl with her too-little swimsuit and the tub she could no longer fit in reminded me of many single parents who have experienced changes in life. Some continue to try to go back and fit into their old life. Perhaps you are one of these people, or maybe you have some single parents like that in your church.

They have experienced divorce and just can’t quite accept how their life has turned out. They continue to try and fit into a life that no longer fits.

Single parents who hold on to their old life

Many things keep single parents from moving on.

  • They continue to talk about the divorce to anyone who will listen.
  • They stay mad all the time.
  • Due to stress, they see everything as “all about me.” It’s natural to feel like this.
  • They are often late. When people are extremely stressed, they can’t maintain enough focus to keep track of time.
  • Their children are often out of control. Kids take cues from their parents.
  • They continue to try to have a relationship with the departed spouse even though the other person has moved on and is in a new relationship.
  • Many, without realizing it, use their children as pawns to have continued conversations with the other parent (or to “spy” on the activities of that parent).

Church leaders and children’s ministers

Even though many of you work with children, make no mistake: you also work with the parent—the single parent. What can you do?

  • Encourage single parents to find only one or two confidantes with whom to talk. The more people they talk to, the more confusing situations can become.
  • Very carefully and gently point out how their anger affects their life. If possible, and if they will accept it, provide comforting Scriptures for them.
  • Forgive them when they seem selfish and self-centered. If you can be supportive and accepting, it will help them move forward.
  • When the children are out of control, deal with it in class. Do not call in the parent. Most of the time, the parent is stressed and clueless about how to help.
  • If you have a policy to send the child to the parent or not allow the child to attend the next week due to the child’s behavior, please think through this consequence because this will only serve as an excuse not to attend church.
  • Keep in mind the person who brings the children on Sunday may only get to be with them a few times a month. The parent might not be able to address excessive discipline problems.
  • Encourage recently divorced parents to register for a DivorceCare group if they are still trying to heal from divorce.
  • If they are making progress in healing from divorce, encourage them to get into a Single & Parenting group. This curriculum does wonders to help single parents learn how to parent alone. And it is a learned process after having been married for years.
  • Pray over them and with them.
  • Be patient with them.
  • Above all, love these single parents in the Lord.

Mat. 9:17 says, “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out, and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Jesus brings “newness” to life. He doesn’t want single parents to try to fit into their old life. He wants single parents to accept Him, and He wants them to fit into a new, better life with Him.

Teach single parents each experience they have in life grows and matures them in their life with Christ. People they meet become part of their living history.

Attitudes change; trust levels change. Friends come and go. Hopefully, single parents’ faith walk grows to the point they can’t fit into old wineskins.


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on June 8, 2015.

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