Learning how to parent children through a divorce is certainly not something I had ever considered until I was faced with it. I understand every divorce is different, for different reasons, and with different results. This post is not meant to be a broad “how to” but simply a few things I have learned, and am continuing to learn, on how to parent through this long arduous process. My situation may be unique and my experiences may not apply to most, but I feel sharing in this format has been helpful with my healing process as well.
This video below is something I think EVERY parent in this situation should see. I watched it nearly every day for months as a reminder to filter my every action through biblical principals and the question, “how will this affect my kids”. Whether you are in the midst of a divorce, have gone through this in the past, or have ever had a thought of a divorce…please take a few minutes and watch this.
First, we all know that a primary rule of should be to “never bad mouth the other parent to the kids”. I could not agree more. However, if the other parent is taking actions that are contrary to Biblical principals how do we address this with our kids? When does this passiveness become condoning a lifestyle or choices contrary to God’s design? I have been brought back to this passage repeatedly when contemplating this subject:
Proverbs 22:6 New International Version (NIV)
6 Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
Dr. James Dobson says it very well here…
For my children, they were raised in a Christian home and brought up to respect the ties of marriage as well as “purity” in their hearts. I pray that they will not turn from it regardless of the examples they see around them in the world or even in their own family. It is not my job to point out where others are falling short… Lord knows I have had, and continue to have, plenty of my own issues to work on as well. Which also leads me to my second point, own your piece of the problem.
Through my divorce experience I chose to be open and honest with my children. Of course this must be tempered to age and maturity appropriateness for each child, but living in transparency will not only show your children what can happen as a result of our choices, it also serves as a accountability reminder. I am not suggesting sharing the down and dirty details of marital issues or other areas of your personal life, but simply being willing to tell you children when you make a mistake. Knowing you will have to face your children when you make mistakes or poor choices will make you stop and think before making those choices. As my marriage dissolved I told the kids that I was not a perfect husband or father. I shared a few examples of poor choices I had made in each of these roles and what I had done to correct them. I also vowed to not make these same mistakes again. I have had to sit my children down many times and apologize and ask for their forgiveness through this process, and it will not stop there. This level of accountability and transparency is something I believe will sustain the relationship with my children for years to come. Again filtering my actions as best I can through biblical principals and God’s guidance must continue to be priority one. When I fail to meet God’s desires as it relates to my family, I must confess this to God but now also to my children.
Final point is one I have been struggling with for some time, and still am, but today as I was writing this I received an email (again in His perfect timing) that addressed this EXACT concern. How do we respond when others involved in our children’s lives support behavior or a life style that is contrary to the Bible? What if this person or persons are someone you consider a strong spiritual influence in your children’s lives? This has many associated emotions that we must continue to address, pray about, and seek God’s guidance. Anger, frustration, betrayal, and sadness to name just a few. Today I received a Daily Email from Divorce Care that addressed this concern… here is an except that I found immensely helpful.
“While you cannot control what goes on in your former spouse’s home, you can control your reaction to the situation and the words you say to your children about it. Sometimes children are quick to tell you things that happened at the other parent’s house that they know you will disapprove of. Do not prompt your children to tell you these things. That places the children in the middle again, and your role is not that of detective or police.
Your children may come home and say, “We saw some R-rated movies that you didn’t want us to see.” Here is where you check your own response before blurting out disparaging words against the other parent.
Dr. Bob Barnes recommends that you say something like, “I’m sorry about that. Your dad and I, or your mom and I, have differing opinions on those kinds of things. I’m sorry that happened. Do you want to talk about the movie itself? Let’s do that.”
(For my situation I expanded this to include extended family as well as “former spouse”)
This is just one example of behavior we may disagree with, but the principal applies to nearly all. It is painful to watch our children being told that things they were once raised knowing are wrong are now permissible or, in my case encouraged. Regardless, we must teach through our own example and allow others in their lives, (the other parent, friends, extended family, etc) to make their own choices. Commit to teaching Biblical principal as truth and not condemning others for their actions, this is the path God has placed on my heart for raising my children in a broken home.
Here is the associated verse that was contained within the Divorce Care email as well.
2 Timothy 1:12 New Internation
al Version (NIV)
12 I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.
I am convinced that the key to parenting your children through divorce is to remember this… entrust your children to their heavenly father above. They belong to him first, and us second. Trust that He will protect your children’s hearts and minds and be present in Spirit when we are not around.
Pray for your kids today and…Be blessed.
***If you are looking for support through your divorce process I highly recommend signing up for Divorce Care’s daily email. You can do so by CLICKING HERE.***