In the United States, approximately “1,000,000 children a year experience their parents’ divorce.”[i] This is a staggering statistic, and it does not account for children whose parents are still married but separated, or who were cohabiting and have gone their separate ways. As catechists, it is certain that we will minister to people from broken families, if we have not done so already. As we encounter these people, we may find ourselves asking whether the experience of parental divorce impacts the faith of children of divorce.[ii] And if so, how can we as catechists respond to their needs? As a child of divorced parents, I have been pondering both of these questions for some time. In sharing my reflections, I am inviting you to ponder these questions with me in order to discern what answers the Holy Spirit leads you to in your particular ministry.
Before going further, I want to clarify that I am not condemning parents who divorce. Divorce is painful for everyone involved and parents never intend for their divorce to negatively impact their children. The hard truth is that it does. Through personal experience and research, I have learned that divorce can affect one’s faith profoundly.
A helpful analogy for understanding the impact of divorce is that of a culture. Children of divorce experience a different “culture” than people from intact families. Addressing the issues arising from parental divorce catechetically involves a process of inculturation. In this process, the threefold catechumenal model—with its pastoral, liturgical, and catechetical aspects—provides a helpful framework for addressing the needs of children of divorce.
[i] “The Need,” LifeGivingWounds.org, 2021, https://www.lifegivingwounds.org/the-need.
[ii] For my purposes, the term “children of divorce” refers to people whose parents have divorced, are separated but still married, or had been cohabiting and are now separated. In this context, “children” of divorce refers to all age groups, because study has shown that experience of one’s parents’ divorce has a profound impact even into the adult years.