In a time of division, it’s difficult enough just to live day-to-day feeling like a whole human being; but in some houses, there are children (of all ages) who aren’t feeling exactly whole either. Separation and divorce are shown to cause children great conflict; they feel the need to choose sides, or they feel burdened and afraid of accidentally showing partiality; in some cases, children don’t know who to blame, and end up blaming themselves. Although children are far more resilient than adults, the wounds caused by a divided household can last a child a lifetime of relational issues if they are not handled correctly. The good thing is that we can know how to address this difficult time for our children through Scripture.
Be the example.
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul— Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. Deuteronomy 11:13, 18-21
The Bible is clear that it is your responsibility to influence your children through your own lifestyle. Living as God commands means being ever aware of both His Word and the watchful eyes of your children. Pray with them, worship with them, read your Bible to them or in front of them. Live your life as an example for them so that they will see the right way to live. Christianity is not meant to be lived in secret; we are to be the light to others, especially our children.
Model the fruits.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. John 13:35
If we are leading by example, we must be walking in the fruits of the Spirit. Our children must see us walking in love, faith, gentleness, patience, and thankfulness, despite our situation. We cannot say that we are standing boldly upon the Word of God if we are not truly walking in His ways. Especially when times are troubled and stressful, our children need to see the strength in us exhibited through extraordinary expressions of faith.
Be a safe place.
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
No matter what ages your children are during a separation, they will need to be able to bring up any questions they have and speak candidly with you about how they feel. Don’t let bitterness affect the safe environment for conversation with your child. Your spouse is not the enemy, and your child should never feel as though they have a “bad parent” because of the information you have chosen to share. If your children are not bringing up the elephant in the room, make sure to approach them about it and offer that safety to speak freely; they may be afraid to ask questions. Choose wisely what you will share, as it may affect the way your child feels about you or your spouse in the future.
Lead them into understanding that everyone goes through trials.
Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16:33
For younger children, watching you go through pain and anguish is scary. It is important to let children know that the Bible tells us that all will face trials and sorrow; however, we must also share with them the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose again specifically for that reason. He is our Good Hope and our Promise of everlasting life, free from sorrow and strife. We must share that hope with our children without allowing them to think that life should always be simple and easy.
As you walk this struggle out, your children will watch you become stronger, and it will fill them with hope. The purpose of pain is surviving it, and surviving pain with grace leads others to hope. Our children deserve to have hope and be encouraged so that if they are ever put in our shoes, or if they encounter others who are, they can be the light. This is our legacy: that we will be a light in a dark place for our children to find and trust God through.
Is your life, as it stands, a positive example for your children?
Do you think that your child(ren) feel safe speaking with you about the current state of your marriage?
Would your feelings about your spouse cloud your speech if they did try to talk to you?
Have you shared the encouragement of Christ’s presence through trials with your children?