Part 5 in the Honoring God During Divorce series.
Going through a divorce in which children are involved is perhaps one of the most devastating experiences a person can endure. Pause and consider this - for the children involved, something which is entirely outside of their control and has nothing to do with them has altered the trajectory of their lives.
Hearkening back to Feel All the Feels – Then Resolve to Do What’s Right Anyway, this is where the rubber meets the road. You must set aside your feelings and pursue what is best for your children like the mom in I Kings 3:16-28 who set aside her feelings and her rights to secure the wellbeing of her son.
It is critical to remember God’s design for families, i.e., children are raised by a mother and father. If this cannot be done while married and living in the same home, that does not negate the importance of God’s design. Stay involved in the lives of your children. Yes, it will look different, but being divorced does not diminish your influence or responsibility as a mother/father.
How you conduct yourself during the divorce process sets the tone for your co-parenting relationship. Tread lightly. You do not want to create a dynamic in which the children feel pressured to choose one parent over the other. Parental alienation is abuse and is indescribably damaging. To paraphrase a friend of mine, do not hate your ex-spouse more than you love your children.
Practical steps to honoring God by protecting your children during divorce
Do not burden your children with detailed accounts of the demise of your marriage. Seek emotional support from a trusted friend, pastor, counselor, or coach – not your children.
Do not speak ill of their mother/father. Regardless of your current opinion of your future ex-wife/husband, they are the person God chose to be your children’s parent. Never forget that you will be held accountable for the words that you speak (Matt. 12:36).
Listen to your children without becoming defensive. Embrace their pain, confusion, fear, and anger with love. Their foundation has been shaken; show them that you are still stable enough to withstand the storm of their emotions and will love them no matter what (I Cor. 13:7).
Do not overindulge your children seeking to “make up” for the fact their parents are getting a divorce or engendering yourself as their favorite parent. One, you cannot make up for it. Two, overindulgence adds to the instability in the children’s world. Not only are mom and dad getting divorced, but now all the rules and structure have gone out the window. Lastly, you will create a sense of entitlement that will ultimately embitter your parent-child relationship.
Reframing common stumbling blocks
(Reframing is a fancy way cognitive-behavioral therapists say, change your perspective.)
Child Support – Rather than viewing it through the lens of paying your ex-wife/husband, consider it as an investment in your child’s wellbeing.
Instead of saying, “She/he just bought a new car! I’m obviously paying her/him too much in child support.” Say, “I’m glad my son/daughter has a reliable, safe car to ride in when they are with their mother/father.”
Alternatively, instead of saying, “If she/he can afford that fancy house, they can afford to pay me more!” Do not be envious of their prosperity. Be grateful that your children have a nice home to stay in while with your ex-wife/husband. (Gal. 5:26).
Spousal Support – This form of support can be a bit trickier to wrap your mind around. Remember, if your ex-wife/husband is unable to take care of themselves, then they are unable to care for your children. As tough as it may be, train yourself to consider these payments as an investment in your children too.
Financial Bottom Line – If your ex-wife/husband is misapplying or withholding support, you are entitled to seek a legal remedy. Often, the results are not what you hoped they would be. So, take comfort in knowing we will all give an account of ourselves to God (Rom. 14:12).
Custody Schedules – “It’s not fair. She/he gets more time than I do.” You’re right; it’s not fair – it can’t be. You can choose to be resentful about it or make the most of the time you have with your children. Be intentional. Use the time you have with your children to nurture them, train them in godliness (Deut. 6:6-8, Pro. 22:6, Eph. 6:4), and make memories.
In closing, this is a call to honor God by loving your children. Put their needs above your own (Phil. 2:4). There is no denying this is difficult. So, Gather the Troops, Do What is Right, and Let God be Your Vindicator.
Next week, we will examine how divorce can strengthen your faith and teach you how to trust God like never before.
Angela W. Startz, MAHSC, CCLC