Sobbing child on an airplane!



A couple of years ago Jon Acuff posted the following on Facebook.

Yesterday on my flight, a 13 year old boy who was traveling alone sat next to me. Before we took off he lowered the tray table in front of him, put his head in his arms and started sobbing. Big tears covered the tray as he wept in his seat

I asked him, “Are you alright buddy?” He told me he had spent 3 months with his mother for the summer and was flying back to another state to live with his dad.

While Jon was on the plane watching this sad event unfold, I was at a single parent family retreat. When I read Jon’s post I started thinking about the contrast between the kids attending the camp and and what happened on the plane.

The kids who were at the camp with their single parent had an opportunity to have a carefree weekend. The parents did too. They connected with other kids who live in a single parent world. They were not alone. They laughed, ran, played and had bunches of good food to eat.

Here are just a few of the events the kids could take part in during the weekend

  • Take a nature walk with a leader who taught them about God’s creation
  • Go to the on site water park with their single parent and their new found friends
  • Visit the on site zoo
  • Go canoeing on Saturday afternoon with their single parent and watch their newfound friends in another canoe with their parent or share their canoe with another single parent family
  • Take part in fun activities with responsible leaders while their single parent was in another part of the camp
  • Share meals with their new friends and other single parents
  • Go horseback riding
  • After vespers eat bunches of sticky gooey Smores

At every meal the lady in charge of the retreat had Ziploc bags on the tables with items in them for the kids. One bag was school supplies. Other bags had activity books, coloring books and other fun things like teeny tiny finger flashlights. The bag on the table at the last meal was full of things to eat on the trip home.

While these kids were have the time of their lives, their single parent that brought them was learning how to be a better parent. They were learning about what the Word of God has to say to them. The Holy Spirit was present and working in mighty ways in our midst.

In case you didn’t know, divorce can be generational in families. Trauma can be passed from one generation to the next but so can God’s precepts and His love. With care and concern the Lord’s people can make a huge difference in the lives of those living in single parent homes.

I too have seen the hurting kids traveling alone on planes and in airports. It is heart breaking.

So let me ask you, why don’t churches reach out to single parents and their kids? Why can’t we have more single parent retreats? Why can’t we have small single parent groups at churches? Why can’t we have programs like DivorceCare, Single and Parenting, DC4K or GriefShare in local churches?

Count me naïve but I think we could change the world in a better way if we reached these kids and helped their broken hearts heal.

I love what Jon Acuff said about the experience on the plane.

Sometimes the frequency of divorce makes us forget the heartache of it. It’s such an ordinary thing these days that we tend to rush right by the extraordinary pain it causes.

If you grew up with divorced parents, are going through a divorce or are divorced, I’m sorry for all the times that I didn’t understand how hard that experience can be. It might be common, but it’s never easy.

This man admits he hasn’t always understood what is involved in divorce and for divorcing families. He is on target when he says it’s never easy.

I pray church leaders can adopt the same attitude. I pray they keep the vision of a child sobbing on an airplane because he has to leave one parent to go see another parent – always having to say goodbye in order to say hello again. I also hope they keep the vision in their heads of kids of divorce playing, laughing, connecting with other kids and with their single parents in a rich and wholesome atmosphere.

Oh and by the way, I’m purposefully not going to say the name of the denomination that sponsored the single parent family event because I want all of you to think your denomination or church could be the one that could do an event like this!


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on August 18, 2015.

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2 thoughts on “Sobbing child on an airplane!

  1. Parent maybe should not be allowed to leave the state where the child resides. We need to do whatever it takes to make the child feel safe.

    • While I agree parents need to do whatever it takes to help the child feel safe sometimes it’s not possible. Situations like divorced military families are the first ones that come to mind. Appreciate your comment and thanks for a great reminder for many parents.

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