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When Families Fall Apart

Linda Kondracki Sibley

Familiesfa

She's always been such a bright, happy child," the teacher said to me. "Always listening intently and taking part in everything we do. But lately, she's been withdrawn and participates only rarely. I thought maybe she was just going through a phase. Then today, in the middle of the Bible story, she climbed into my lap, turned her face up to mine and said, 'My daddy went away.' Her eyes were so sad, I didn't know what to do! So I just held her. Can you tell me what's going on in her family?"

I didn't know, but I told her I'd find out. Several days later, I discovered that her parents had separated a few weeks earlier and were now in the process of a divorce.

I have to admit I was a bit shaken by this experience. It was the first time I'd encountered such a dramatic change of behavior in a child due to what was happening in her family. That was many years ago, and in those days, I didn't know what to do for children in that situation. So I told the teacher to give her a little extra love.

It wasn't until years later that the issue surfaced again. In a new children's ministry position, I encountered more out-of-control behavior than I'd seen in all the years at my other church. As I became better acquainted with the families in the church, I discovered most of the problems could be directly traced to what was happening within each child's family. We had children whose parents were separated, divorced, or remarried. We had children being raised by their grandparents, children in foster care, and those living with an alcoholic or addicted parent.

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