Seeing Marriage in a Positive Light Despite the Divorce

It doesn't matter if you are a parent or a child coping with a divorce on a day-to-day basis isn't easy. Recovery may require you to travel down a rough road: Ex-spouses, child support and new living arrangements are just a few of the obstacles that make it difficult to endure the present-day, let alone make a plan for the future. In spite of these hardships, one of the greatest gifts parents can pass on to their children is a capacity to form stable, lasting relationships as adults.

While not suggestive of everyone from a broken home, psychologist and author John Trent says, "Children of divorce have no idea how to create and maintain a healthy relationship themselves. Typically, therefore, the idea of getting married fills them with both joy and dread at the same time."1

Children of divorced parents don't have to grow up and become divorced parents themselves, despite these trends that Trent suggests. But to achieve this end, divorced mothers and fathers must cultivate a healthy view of marriage and commitment in their home.

But how?

  • Cast a vision for marriage. Even though you may have made mistakes in the past, your children are looking to you for wisdom and direction. Culture's negative messages bombard kids today, so it's especially important to be intentional about how you approach the subject of relationships. Look for "teachable moments" to emphasize the positive aspects of marriage and the importance of commitment.

    Read the Bible together to learn about lessons of love and marriage. (See Genesis 2, Ephesians 5 and 1 Corinthians 13.) Examples abound in these and many other Bible passages.

  • Face your own attitudes about divorce and marriage. As simple as it may seem, children can pick up on emotions such as disappointment, bitterness, unforgiveness and condemnation. Avoid conclusive statements like "all men are liars" or "women are impossible to live with." This projects a negative mindset that may alter future relationships.

    Also avoid making unpleasant comments about your child's stepparent or about your former marriage. If you find yourself dwelling on bad thoughts about your ex-spouse or about marriage in general, you may wish to seek the guidance of a counselor. It will not only benefit you, but also your children, who have a lot to gain from an emotionally healthy parent.

  • Find marriage role models. We are all influenced by people around us, either positively or negatively. Surround yourself and your children with couples who have weathered life's storms and continue to have strong, thriving marriages. Perhaps grandparents, other family members or close friends fit the bill. If not, you might want to seek out a couple in your church willing to take your family under their wings.

  • Speak words of affirmation. Take advantage of every chance you get to build confidence in your kids. While this is crucial in any parenting situation, keep in mind that children of divorce more often question their worthiness or value; they are also more likely to carry their low self-esteem into adulthood.

    Be intentional in acknowledging positive character traits, while developing qualities like responsibility, respect, servant hood and humility.

  • Build hope for the future. Hope is perhaps one of the most powerful forces in the world and hopelessness can be one of the most destructive. Plant seeds of hope. Do you know your children's dreams for their future? Do you know what discourages them?

    Open the lines of communication and allow them to share their fears, frustrations, and worries about the days ahead. It will unlock opportunities you have to pray together and ensure them that they can succeed, with God's help.

Ultimately, no parent can guarantee that a child will have a lifelong marriage. All you can do is your best, and pray fervently for your kids and their future spouses.

1 John Trent, Breaking the Cycle of Divorce (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006).

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