“Each of you should look not only to your own interests,
but also to the interests of others“ (Philippians 2:4).
After my husband and I first reconciled, my daughter Laura walked in the door one day dancing. “I heard a new song on the radio by Shania Twain. It should be Daddy’s and your song! It’s called ‘You’re Still the One.'” Thankfully, she was no longer one of the children caught in the pain of having her parents split apart.
Our Painful “Family” Story
A warm glow spread through me. Laura was right. The agonizing nights were over.
The fears, the doubts were behind me. But as I looked into her smiling eyes, I remembered that this story wasn’t just about my husband and me. The story of our daughters and the impact all of this had on them was there too. Their lives and hearts were affected just as ours were. But because of their youth, they often didn’t know how it was affecting them or how to respond to it.
When we are buried in our own grief, it’s hard to see the pain of our children. We think of ourselves as the victims and our children as mere bystanders —observers. But they are victims too. What they thought was rock has turned to sand. The safety net that should protect them and give them security has sprung a gaping hole.
As we reel within a world that is turning upside down, so do they. Whether they are toddlers or young adults, our children walk along behind us. The dust we kick up flies in their faces; the garbage of our words becomes sour food in their minds. Our silences and insensitivities spin a web of confusion and disconnectedness over their souls.
Sometimes their confused emotions cause them to drift into actions that alarm us. They may pull away in rebellion or sink into depression or isolation. These are the innocents we love with every fiber of our being. How do we keep from hurting them?
A Hedge of Protection
First and more important, seek God to make sure you are going in the direction he would lead. You need to stay in his will. And each day, pray a hedge of protection around your children.
It is hard to comprehend the vulnerability children feel. This causes them to think your marriage problems are their fault. It is important to continually reassure them that this crisis is not their fault. Reinforce this to them throughout the turmoil —because they may not hear it or believe it the first time you say it.
In this out-of-control setting, keep life as normal as possible to preserve the children’s sense of security. Be available. Listen to them, and let them express their own upset feelings without judging them. This will give them the freedom to deal with their grief more honestly. Since you may not be able to listen to their pain without being distracted by your own, give them the freedom to share with friends. It may seem awkward, but remember that this is their crisis too.
In the Loop
You also need to keep them in the loop. Let them know the general scope of what is going on without sharing details they don’t need to know. Resist the temptation to demonize their father. Don’t disparage or minimize their father’s love for them. They need his love just as they need yours.
Your own intense anguish needs to be expressed in healthy forums. This is an opportunity for them to see God’s supernatural power at work in you. If they see you looking to God and finding healthy outlets, such as friends or counselors, during this time of distress, your present pain can eventually bear fruit in your children’s lives in years to come.
But in the midst of it all, you also need to give yourself a lot of grace. Forgive yourself for failures and ask your children for forgiveness as well. You cannot —and will not —be perfect. Pray with them for wisdom, strength, mercy, and understanding. You can diminish their pain by giving God center stage and letting him lead in his way and on his schedule.
Lord, protect my children. Place a hedge around them and keep them in the circle of your love. It’s hard for me to see their pain when I am in the midst of mine. Give me the wisdom and sensitivity to listen, affirm them, and steer them around the potholes in the road.
This article is written by Linda W. Rooks and comes from the excellent book, Broken Heart on Hold, published by Life Journey. This book “is meant to be a friend to walk beside you through the labyrinths of your confusion and pain. It is not a quick fix or a prescription for how to solve your problems. It is intended to be a daily companion in your crisis.” It is suggested that “you read one selection each day and let the devotional thoughts sink into your heart and mind. Then the following day go on to the next.”
You can also visit Linda’s Web site at Brokenheartonhold.com where she has “individually formatted a number of Bible verses for your strength and encouragement.”
More from Marriage Missions
Filed under: Separation and Divorce
2 responses to “Children Caught In the Pain”
(UNITED STATES) Very well written and so far I have stayed close to the points you’ve pointed out in not letting my pain and frustration be felt by my little one. I have a toddler whose father recently left home and the state with no notice, argument, or explanation. His actions were so erratic that at this point I cannot trust him anymore and am pursuing a divorce.
Meanwhile he’s 2 hours away and has not made an effort to arrange seeing his child or explain his abandoning his family. How do you answer the question “Where is daddy” that is not of the flesh? I really don’t want either of us to face the cries that may happen if he were to come around on weekends. Is that fair to my little one at this point? Praying for guidance in raising my baby the right way.
Have you ever noticed that once a spouse has their heart set on divorce, they don’t care what God says about it, what their friends and family think about it, nor how bad it would damage their own children? When Satan takes over someone’s heart, soul and mind, it is amazing how blind they can be. Truly heartbreaking for all involved.