Australian church first - a kids-focused divorce care program
Divorce Care for Kids is a branch of the Divorce Care course, a 13-week program that supports separated families as they adjust to their new circumstances. St Jude’s is the first parish in Australia to offer this alongside the adults program, with other churches soon to follow.
With almost half of all divorces in Australia affecting children, a program like this has broad potential community benefits.
“We have had a few families from church experiencing separation, and we thought it would be a good thing to run something for the kids of these families,” says Mrs Kate Pearse, the Community Engagement Co-ordinator at St Jude’s.
“It was a big need in the community too, and it’s opened up doors in our community.”
More than one in 10 couples in the Southern Highlands are divorced
Locals are also recognising the benefits of Divorce Care for Kids. Mrs Pearse sees this as a way St Jude’s can show the love of Christ to those in tough situations.
“We have Christians and non-Christians walking together, side by side, loving and caring for each other,” she says.
“The gospel is being shown practically, and being explained theologically as well. This is done in both the adults and kids course.”
Ten-year-old Eden has endured a roller-coaster of changes and emotions since her parents split three years ago, but the positive impact of Divorce Care for Kids is obvious to her mum Felicity.
“We had something very stressful come up, and Eden went off to do a breathing exercise,” Felicity says. “She said to me, ‘I am doing this because I feel very anxious.’ She was able to use the tools she learned in the very first week [after the course].”
They explore themes in an age-appropriate way
Divorce Care for Kids parallels with the adult Divorce Care program, but explores topics in an age-appropriate way. Through activities, crafts, stories and games, children explore important themes such as forming new relationships, dealing with changing relationships, and the fact that they aren’t to blame for the breakdown of their parents’ marriage.
Kids are encouraged to identify feelings and respond to them physically, by placing stickers next to words that reflect their mood – and even by throwing eggs at negative statements they associate with.
“When we go home, we have a little debrief,” Felicity says. “If the kids feel like talking, we’ll talk about the lessons. I think it helps make it a bit more concrete. For [Eden] to see that she is incredibly supported by friends and family and church, and for her to see that while Mum and Dad aren’t perfect, God is. That’s probably the biggest lesson she’s got. That’s something Eden says every week.”
"While Mum and Dad aren't perfect, God is."
Mrs Pearse hopes to see other churches offering Divorce Care for Kids and caring for families that might feel ostracised by the church.
“It’s about getting the gospel to people who are really hurting and who may feel church isn’t for them,” she says. “We want to say that Christ is for them, no matter what they’re going through."
"It’s a fantastic opportunity to bring the gospel to them, and it makes the church more open to the community.”