Answering Kids’ Tough Questions: Why Do Parents Get Divorced?
This is a post in a series looking at kids’ tough questions. It is in no way intended to be all-inclusive or to have all the answers. It is an explanation of how I would answer these questions with my own kids and kids in my ministry. It is also intended to be a conversation starter. Please share your own thoughts and opinions in the comments below. Just be nice please. 🙂
My friend, Wayne Stocks, has created a great blog that addresses divorce ministry for kids. You can check it out here for more (and better!) information on this topic.
I was a kid of divorce. My parents divorced when I was three. That’s probably why it has taken me all week to write this post. I know the sensitivities and hurts that exist on all sides of the issue. A few months ago, my five year old asked for the first time why my mama and my daddy don’t live together and are married to other people.
Probably no other question requires a balance of “speaking the truth in love” as this one. I think this is an area where the church has tended to err on one side or the other. We either declare that God hates divorce and then scorn or isolate those who have chosen that path or we choose to show love without speaking much truth because we don’t want to offend anyone. As a result we end up with the next generation living out the pattern of divorce instead of the pattern of truth.
We owe kids the truth, but it must be told with lots and lots of love. Love for them, love for the parents, and love for a God who loves us no matter what.
Here are the points I will talk about with a child who asks this question:
– God loves marriage. God created marriage and His plan for the mama and daddy to stay married forever. (Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:5-6).
– People, even parents, make mistakes and make wrong choices. Romans 3:23 is such a familiar verse, but it is so simply tough. ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. This can sound harsh when referring to divorce, but I’ve never met a a kid or a parent who said it was a good thing in their life. Even divorce that is justified in the Bible (adultery – Matthew 19:9 or when an unbeliever leaves – 1 Cor. 7:15) is the result of someone’s sin.
I don’t think it helps kids for us to communicate, intentionally or unintentionally, that it isn’t really a big deal.
Sometimes a child will ask why God let it happen. I just remind him that God lets all of us make our own choices. He doesn’t make us into robots. And just like He allows us to make goofy choices, parents get to make their own choices too, even when they are not good ones.
– Sin always has consequences. Sin always hurts. That is why it hurts kids so much. It is important to share with kids that it is ok to hurt and be sad, but it is NOT their fault. It is NOT because their parents don’t love them. It is NOT because their parents are bad. When grown ups mess up it hurts kids too. Encourage kids to have safe people to talk about and to be honest with mom and dad about their feelings.
– God forgives. God still loves mom and dad. God will forgive mom and dad.
– God will work all things together for good. Divorce doesn’t feel good to a kid. At all. Ever. But we can reassure that God uses even the yucky things for good. We may not be able to see how in the world He can do that, but a kid needs to be reassured that his parents still love him, and that God still loves him. God has a great plan and is not surprised that this has happened.
– If it is your own child asking… If your family hasn’t experienced divorce and your child is asking, it is likely because he or she has heard about it in another family. As he or she starts to understand it is normal for questions to arise about your marriage. Kids need assurance that parents love each other and even when you fight, are committed to staying together. Let me throw in here too that what your kids need the most is for you to continue to fight for your marriage and your family, even when it is tough
This in no way covers every possible scenario or question, but hopefully it gives you a starting place when these conversations come up. What would you add? What would you say?