Many times as leaders, we forget to take into account that many of those to whom we minister during the holiday season (and throughout the year) are non-traditional families. Today's guest post shows us how to practically minister to the child of divorce throughout the holiday season. Linda Ranson Jacobs tells us how to make this a priority.
“Guess what? On Christmas Day my sister and me get to open our presents at mom’s house. Then I get to go to my dad’s house and he said he has a lot of presents for me. After we open presents at Dad’s then we are going to grandma’s house and I get to open more presents there. Presents, presents, presents. I must be the luckiest kid of all. I love Christmas!”
Whew! That sounds like an exciting and very busy day for a child. It also sounds like a day in which the baby Jesus gets left out. As a children’s minister don’t you worry about the true meaning of Christmas and this child? The birth of our Savior doesn’t seem to be amongst all the presents.
Down through the years as I’ve worked with children of divorce I’ve noticed that Christmas is either a very depressing time. Or it is one hyped up by the onslaught of gifts from guilty divorced parents trying to soothe their guilt. It is rare to find a single parent that has developed the ability to create normal holiday times for the children.
For some children holidays are painful reminders of how their family life used to be. Or they might be the children who have lived in two homes for years but something might have happened the past year to bring the hurts back to the forefront. This could be a new the announcement of a pending marriage of a parent or even the birth of a half sibling.
For these children church leaders need to pray for and with the child. It is a mistake to ignore the issues or to bury them. It s also a mistake to try and “happy up” a child just because it is Christmas. Saying something like, “Oh come on, cheer up. It’s Christmas” will only serve to drive the child deeper into self-doubt and confusion.
Allow the child to have a safe place to express what is bothering him or her. Assure the child that no matter what is happening that there is a Savior who will walk beside them. From that you can talk about the baby Jesus and why we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Empathy and understanding will help the child get through the holidays.
Many children of divorce will use Christmas to manipulate their guilty and sometimes warring parents to get what they want. For the child that is into how many gifts they are going to get, join in the excitement. Use pointed questions to open the door to the real meaning of Christmas. An example might be, “Oh my, you sure are excited about all those presents. What are you going to do with all of them?” Gradually turn the conversation toward the most important gift of all, the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It might be that the child has never really heard or understood why we celebrate Christmas.
Some children may only come every other Sunday so it will be hard to get them involved in celebrating Christmas. It might mean you
· Send a special Christmas card addressed to each child in the family wishing them a Merry Christmas
· Mail an invitation announcing any Christmas activities at church
·Find a willing volunteer to give them a call and wish them a Merry Christmas
·Find out if they have enough to eat during the holidays and take food in for a Christmas dinner. Include some special treats for the kids
· Explore the family’s situation to see if the single parent they live with has any extra funds to purchase something for their children at Christmas. Perhaps special gifts could be donated and taken to the house for Christmas.
· Provide a way for the children to purchase or make a special gift for the parent they live with or even for both parents. Children in single parent homes don’t have the ability for one parent to take them shopping to buy a present for the other parent. And many won’t want to ask the parent they live with to give them money and take them shopping for the other parent.
Just a few extra things will help the child of divorce survive the holidays and learn about the true meaning of Christmas. If you are too busy then find someone who will take on ministering to the child of divorce at Christmas.
Linda Ranson Jacobs is a nationally known expert in ministering to the child of divorce. She created the DivorceCare for Kids curriculum and currently serves as the DC4K Ambassador. She also appears as an expert on the Single & Parenting
dvd video series as well as the new DivorceCare video series. As an author, speaker, trainer, program developer and children’s ministry director, Linda has assisted countless families and church workers by modeling and acting on the healing love that she has found in Jesus Christ.
Linda Ranson Jacobs
DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) Ambassador