The importance of “collections” to the child of divorce


All kids like to collect things. Rocks, bugs, jewels, stamps, coins and other small items become important to children. Sometimes the items are silly fun things while other times there might be a purpose to the art of collecting certain items.

Some children turn their collections into a hobby. Boys who collect baseball cards or other sport memorabilia are a good example of collecting as a hobby.

Children of various ages collect all kinds of items. When my grandson was five-year-olds he was into collecting “rocks.” What he called rocks were actually glass jewels I put in my aquarium but to him they were “rocks.” It was something fun for him to collect and put them in his little “treasure” box.

I collect rocks. I’ve always liked rocks, big ones, little ones, rocks of various textures and rocks from different places. Many of my rocks have a sentiment attached to them. I know who I was with when I found a rock or I can point out which rocks I picked up in different places. In other words there are specific reasons I added a rock to my collection

When items are symbols of attachment to a parent

Rarely do young children attach a specific reason or an emotion for collecting something other than they liked it at that moment in time. For the child of divorce, however, collecting things can mean something deeper.

Perhaps a little girl starts a collection of hair bows before her mother moves out. Her collection of hair bows, especially if her mother purchased any of them, will become almost sacred to her because it reminds her of her mother. It might also remind her of the happier times when her mom lived with her.

The same thing is true for a little boy whose dad might have given him his first baseball cap, game or fishing gear.

Items that hold attachments to a parent who has left become all important to the child of divorce. They will protect these things and forbid if anyone should touch them without being given permission. They may hide them or hoard similar items to add to their collections.

The reason

  • Some children think if they hold onto their collections their departed parent may return. Many times in their fantasies they envision showing their collections to the returning parent. The child fantasizes about how proud the parent will be and the praise that will be heaped upon them for the miraculous feat of collecting these items.
  • For other children, the collection is a point of reference and connection with the parent. It gives them something to do together with the other parent. It gives them something in common with their parent, and it gives them something to talk about when they are with their parent.
  • Many of these children will keep their collections in their pockets. I once knew a young child in a single parent home that picked up something off the ground in each childcare provider. As his mother would tell him he was going to a new childcare, he would find something to take with him to remind him of that person or that environment. Rarely did he even share his “treasures” with anyone.

Nest of protection

As some of these children grow into their teen and adult years, their collections become “their” nest around them. They will literally keep these items all around them. You’ll see these items scattered on the nightstand or on the coffee table. These items give them a sense of security. This nesting is very important to these grown up children as they represent their growing up years.

If you have children you are working with, and you notice they have collections, ask about their treasures. Encourage the child to talk about what they collect and why they collect such items.

With summer upon us, perhaps you could encourage children in your ministries to start a collecting something new. Designate a particular service or meeting where kids can bring a sample of their treasures to share with other children. This will give the child of divorce an opportunity to fit in and also to let other people to have glimpse into their life. You might be surprised by what you learn about each child.


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