Hope for Grown Children of Divorce

Unhealed Wounds

This Christmas nearly one quarter of young adults between 18 and 35 will have to decide which parent to visit for the holidays—that is, if they are lucky enough to still have a relationship with both of their divorced parents. These are the children of the no-fault divorce generation, many of whom continue to be weighed down by the baggage of their parents' separation.

For a long time, popular psychology taught that these wounds didn't exist, or at least that children were resilient enough to bounce back easily. One book published in 1989 optimistically asserted that it would "only take a year for children to come to terms with their basic feelings of loss of the original family and any rejection or desertion by a parent."

But by 2001, Judith Wallerstein's groundbreaking book The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce was beginning to tell a different story than many of us thought was the case. She had followed the lives of 100 children of divorce, from childhood into adulthood. She found that as these children matured into adults, the pain of their parents' divorce was still affecting their relationships, their work, and their parenting.

Reading the litany of statistics about the children of divorce can be depressing. They are more likely to struggle with delinquency, alcoholism, and even divorce themselves. It's easy for these now-grown children to feel that they are irreparably wounded. But for the most part, our churches either aren't equipped to identify or to deal with these wounds.

Happily, some answers to the problems facing a new generation of adults still dealing with their parents' divorce is closer than we might think.

In her new book Child of Divorce, Child of God, author Kristine Steakley examines how our understanding of who God is can heal those wounds. Quoting from 19th-century theologian and writer George MacDonald, Steakley writes, "Everything depends on the kind of God one believes in."

The lessons Steakley draws out are not trite spiritual Band-Aids. Rather, they are the result of Steakley's own struggles as a child of divorce. She deftly shines the truths about God's character on these difficult issues.

For example, how can a young adult who saw his parents renege on their vows comprehend a God who does not lie, who is always true to His word? Or what does it take for a young adult who prematurely carried his parents' burdens to realize that God truly shares in carrying our burdens?

Steakley lays a solid framework for rebuilding a shattered sense of hope and self. She stacks these truths about God's character, stopping to admire each sturdy stone along the way.

The result is a book that points to a path of healing for all those who are still carrying hidden wounds of their parents' divorce.

The sad fact is that Christian marriages are just as susceptible to divorce as others. So chances are that if you yourself aren't struggling with the effects of divorce, you certainly know some folks who are. Recommend this book, Child of Divorce, Child of God, to them.

And re-affirm your own belief that knowing God more deeply really is the answer to all of our deepest wounds.