Here’s a post I wrote to encourage parents going through separation or divorce. Please feel free to share it with anyone you know in this situation.
“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19)
I remember the day my daughter learned to sit by herself. Five months old, she sat on the floor at a friend’s house and chewed a teething ring. Her brown eyes shone gleefully at her new independence. Sitting up, she had a whole new perspective!
I should have been delighted, but I couldn’t even smile. We were at the friend’s house because I did not want my children to see their dad packing his things. While Emily innocently expanded her world and her two- and four-year-old brothers played, their dad was leaving our family.
That was eleven years ago. Emily has grown into a lovely preteen with penchants for horses and theater, and her brothers are pursuing their own interests with passion. Apart from the great advise I heard from friends and various readings, things might not have turned out so well. I’d like to offer four recommendations for parents experiencing the desertion of a partner.
Get to Know God
If you’ve never understood the Bible’s redemptive message, I can’t think of a better time to consider it. Don’t think you’re strong enough to handle this trauma by yourself. We were designed for relationship with God. He wants to partner with you, helping you lead those children you love onto solid ground. His love and grace and the wise counsel of Scripture have marked many turning points in my journey as a divorced parent. To begin a relationship with God, check out my “Jesus and You” page. And be sure to find an accepting church where you can grow in your faith.
If you already have a relationship with God through faith in Christ, now’s the time to deepen and grow that bond. True, you may not feel especially excited about your faith right now! When pilots fly through a storm, sometimes they can’t see anything but clouds. They must rely on their instruments to guide them through. Our instruments are prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. Continue to practice these, even if you just aren’t feeling it. Sink your spiritual roots into God’s sovereignty and love.
Traumatic life experiences can make or break our faith. I think the difference between people who abandon their faith and those who grow deeper is the willingness to let God be God. That’s surrender. If we base our faith on anything but God’s sovereign love proved at the cross, we are likely to turn away when we encounter trials.
Don’t be afraid to have a very real discussion with God. It’s normal to wonder if He has let us down. A trusting heart talks this over with Him. That’s a real relationship. I think God would rather hear our rants and questions than a bitter silence and turning away. When we hang in there with God, our trials set us free. Persevere in your faith. Someday, you’ll see that God was both loving and sovereign. I guarantee it.
Join a Support Group
Separation and divorce are extremely traumatic and should not be lightly treated. To be there for your children, you need the healing of a dedicated support group specifically designed for your situation. DivorceCare is a well-established program that’s offered in churches throughout the United States and Canada, and in several other countries. There’s also a DivorceCare program for kids. You’ll hear expert advice on surviving divorce, and you can share your struggles with friends in a confidential setting. Great medicine!
Be an Amicable Ex
Keep your relationship with your ex-spouse as amicable as possible. I remember a small group leader telling me, “This can be a big, endless drama or it can be business-like and reasonably friendly. It’s up to you.” Without becoming a doormat, do everything you can to show your ex that you are willing to be fair and reasonable. Show this person you want to work together to arrive at a stable, happy agreement for the kids.
Divorcing parents can have extremely inaccurate perceptions of each other’s actions, and open hostility is often just a word away. Instead, be polite. Help this person understand you are not posturing as an enemy. Listen to your ex, even if you disagree, and repeat back what he says to show you heard. You may strongly disapprove of his or her actions, but you cannot change anyone but yourself. So take the high road, and do your part to keep things easy on the kids.
Provide Stability for the Children
Divorce is hard on parents, but it rocks a child’s entire world. Security is a child’s primary need, so we can see the potential for devastation when a parent goes AWOL. Keep things as stable as you can for the children. Keep in place whatever family routines you have established. If you watch movies on Friday nights, by all means continue the habit. Continue visiting with friends after church. Don’t forget to walk the dog and do the dishes. Keep discipline consistent; now more than ever your kids need healthy boundaries.
Don’t make any drastic changes if you can help it. It’s tempting to try to outrun our problems. For example, some divorcing parents want to relocate – fast, and far! They think a fresh start will fix everything. Not so! The children are going through too much change already with a newly absent parent. Adding unnecessary changes will shake them even more and may produce behavior problems or psychological harm. That said, you can trust God to help your children cope with the changes you can’t avoid. Stay close to Him day by day.
With time and wise decisions, you can successfully navigate your children through divorce. Initially, separation is traumatic, but life will eventually stabilize. Someday you’ll look back in awe at God’s ability to bring good out of your trial. Until then, keep your eyes on Jesus, who will never fail you.