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#1 – It Will Never Be Perfect – There is no way to “make splitting up right” with your child because you can’t make divorce right if you go that far. It will always be a problem in the child’s life, and it’s crucial that you understand the nature of the problem or you may be discouraged by the ongoing difficulties that divorce cause children.
#2 – Each Child Is Different – Every child is different, so what you say depends on the maturity of your child. Some children will process the divorce quietly while others may act out their thoughts. Either way, splitting up a family is like a seed that you plant in their hearts, and you won’t know how it will affect them entirely until years later.
#3 – Their Ages Matter – The age of the child makes a difference. If the kids are young, you will not be able to say much to them. They do not have categories or discernment to grasp adult problems. Think of it like having the sex talk: you can’t tell them the full scoop when they are young.
#4 – Tell Them the Truth – According to how a unique child can understand it, share what you’re able, even in the most simplified ways, e.g., “Mommy and I are not getting along now, so we have separated.” You are telling them the truth, and you’re keeping it simple for the age of the child.
#5 – Expect Fallout – When your child does act out, consider the source of the behavior. In some way, you’ll see how it’s connected to what happened to their family. Though you will need to correct the child, you must discern the complicatedness that the “shaping influence” of divorce causes. This reality requires much prayer and wisdom.
#6 – Breakups Cause Insecurity – Every child needs security more than anything else, which is why divorce is so devastating to them. The “big people in the room” are the primary ones to provide a secure environment, and when they don’t, there will be adverse consequences, i.e., tempted to find security through other means.
#7 – Don’t Presume on God’s Grace – Some parents flippantly think, “Oh, God will take care of this” or “it’s better this way.” It’s not better “this way.” The reason God permits divorce in some situations is that of hard-heartedness. God may “protect” your children in spite of you, but you do not want to take God for granted.
#8 – Watch the Legalism Trap – Parents of an unwanted divorce may think they have ruined their children for life. While a failed marriage is not right, God transforms all of us by His grace rather than by our works. One trap (#7) is presuming on God’s grace while the other is thinking your “works” are the most significant thing.
#9 – Never Stop Stewarding – You must always discern the contours of your child’s life while bringing care to the ever-changing problems that divorce causes as the child grows. While they are young, their resilience will not be needed as much. As they grow up, they’ll have more thoughts and temptations that will require more competent care.
#10 – Never Speak Evil – Don’t be that person that creates a tension in your child’s heart by speaking critically about your spouse. Regardless of what your spouse has done, he (or she) is still the child’s parent. Don’t make your child choose who he will like more. And when the kid speaks critically of your former spouse, be mature enough to help him change his attitude.
Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).