“Mommy says Daddy has a girlfriend”


DK 3-7-16 Linda - Mommy Says Daddy Has a Girlfriend_23566070_A

How to respond when a child discloses a shocker.


Families are rapidly changing in our world today. Fewer than half the children under eighteen years of age live in a home with the two married birth parents. Many of these two-parent birth families as well as other kinds of families experience dysfunction with moral and worldly issues. The children in these situations are sometimes confused and bewildered. As a result, these kids ask tough questions and disclose sensitive information.

As a children’s minister or church leader, are you prepared when a child tells you his teenage sister is a lesbian or his dad is having an affair?

These are sticky situations that many of us are not prepared to face. However, if you reach out to the families in your community, the children you meet will ask questions like these:

  • Is my daddy going to marry the lady that he sends pictures to on his phone?
  • People say that man is my mom’s baby daddy. What is a baby daddy?
  • Is the man that married my mom my stepdad?
  • Is that baby my dad and his girlfriend had my half brother?
  • Why is my daddy dressing like a lady? And I heard that he is changing his name. Does this mean I have to change my name too?
  • I heard my aunt say my cousin is a donor baby. What’s a donor baby?
  • I don’t think God likes it when my mom kisses her girlfriend, but she said it’s okay. Is that true?

How to react and not react when a child makes a disclosure

With situations like these, it’s no surprise that children might want to share what is happening in their families and their lives. How you respond can make the difference in the trust and security a child develops with you.

Many of these kids are intuitive. Early on in their young lives they have learned how to read adult body language. They know what you are thinking because of how you react physically to the situation.

How should you be prepared to react? Some of the following suggestions may sound simple and familiar, but keep in mind, a child might be disclosing something that is going to be a shock to your heart and mind. You must be prepared, and the following ideas will help.

What to do

  • Stay calm. Quote Scriptures to yourself quietly if that’s what it takes.
  • Pray silently.
  • Concentrate on what the child is telling you.
  • Nod your head, affirming you are hearing the child.
  • Reaffirm your relationship with the child. Let the child know:
    My love for you is based on you, not your situation.
    This changes nothing in our relationship.
    God loves you, and so do I.
    I want our relationship to be a safe place where you can tell me anything.

What not to do

  • Don’t look disappointed.
  • Don’t get mad.
  • Don’t compare (especially with the child’s sibling).
  • Don’t try to counsel the child.
  • Don’t give the child Scriptures about how sinful it is.
  • Don’t try and convince a child he or she is wrong or sinful (or the parents are).

I don’t know about you, but I have struggled with what to say when a child has revealed some kind of family situation to me or when children have told me something about themselves. “I’m sorry” can tend to make children feel like you pity them. While in my head I might be screaming, “Noooooo! Not in your family,” I know this attitude will not help any child. Later when you are alone you can pray for the family and the situation, but how do you stay in the moment?

Caleb Kaltenbach in the book Messy Grace has some great responses. I have memorized these responses and have already had to rely on my memory in the crisis of the moment.

What to say

  • Thank you for sharing this part of your life with me.
  • Thank you for thinking enough of me to include me in this.
  • Thank you for telling me more about you.
  • Thank you for trusting me with this part of your life.

For the most part the child, or even the parent, needs for you to listen. They need to be able to tell their story without feeling judgment from you. This is true whether a child is disclosing that his parents are separating, they are living in a cohabiting situation, or the child is facing a moral issue with himself or his parents. So sometimes just being quiet and listening is the best way to respond. In fact, we often need a lot more information before we can respond wisely.

One note of caution: Always remember that if the child discloses an unsafe situation, you are legally obligated to report this information to the proper authorities. Check with your church leadership about how to proceed with such information.

For many of these children and families, we stand in the gap between them and the moral and worldly issues facing them today. Never in our history has such great turmoil faced the young. Never before have so many parents put their needs above those of their children.

In another post we’ll share definitions you might not have been exposed to or understand. We’ll also give you resources you can use to educate yourself and your leaders about children who live in various situations.

In an additional post, you’ll find practical application and helpful tools for the church to use when ministering to children who live in different kinds of families.


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6 thoughts on ““Mommy says Daddy has a girlfriend”

  1. Linda, once again your words are right on and your timing perfect. Last night’s DC4K required this wisdom, and thanks to you, it was there for our team at Madison Park Church of God.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m always impressed with your guidance in these matters with children. I haven’t yet faced it, but it’s likely only a matter of time. Thanks again.

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