Do you remember playing ping pong as a kid? Maybe it was in an empty garage or a rec room or maybe in the youth room at a church or a camp. My dad used to enjoy playing ping pong ball with us kids whenever we found a table. We would start nice and easy, but before long, we were batting that ball almost as hard as we could so our opponent would miss and we would get another point.
I have seen very competitive players and professionals play this game and it is incredible how precise they are and how quick and furious they play. Wow! They actually work up a sweat playing a game with a little ball and a paddle!
Over the past many years in ministry to single parents and their kids, I have heard countless times that kids feel like ping pong balls going back and forth between their mom’s house and their dad’s. They no longer have a “home”, because now everything is split up.
Rules, rituals, meals, activities, discipline issues, beds, religious practices are different in each house and the kids have to adjust to each home, whether it is for a day, a weekend, a week, or months at a time. They learn to adjust just in time to say goodbye to that parent and then go to the other parent’s house.
Kids say, “I hate my life because I am always having to say ‘good-bye’ to someone!” “I don’t know where I really belong.” Who am I?” Am I mom’s or dad’s?” “What does family really mean?”
Do you see why we have so many angry kids, teens and now young adults in our world? Their very identity has been altered and they don’t know who they are. They look for love and a sense of belonging wherever they can; many times finding other hurting kids who “understand’ them.
The first step is to ask them questions about how they are feeling and then really listen to their heart as they answer. Don’t get defensive or try to justify the reasons for your divorce. Listen in silence. You might take that information and share it with your ex, if you are able, to find a solution to make things easier for your child. Can you both put the child first above your own battle?
So, how do parents help repair some of the damage and devastation the divorce has had on them?
- Keep as many family rituals and traditions as you can, so they have some solidity.
- Involve them in activities where they are accepted and understood and can feel a sense of belonging.
- Make a huge effort to “get along” with their other parent instead downgrading, blaming and bickering with each other.
- The best way to give a hurting child a sense of who they are, is to teach them what God’s Word says about them. That is where their identity began and what it should stand on; not their circumstances. Search the Bible for answers and who knows? You might also find more about your identity instead of basing it on your past.
Dad/Mom, stop the ping pong game and help your child to settle into a life of peace, contentment, confidence and the love of both parents. Ping Pong match over!