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The Switching Hour: Kids of Divorce Say Good-bye Again

The Switching Hour: Kids of Divorce Say Good-bye Again

by Evon O. Flesberg

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The Switching Hour is that time both hoped for and dreaded, when children go from one world to another as they shuttle between divorced parents.

Written from the child's point of view, this book will help parents simplify family life as children transition between parents.  Filled with facts and practical advice, The


The Switching Hour is that time both hoped for and dreaded, when children go from one world to another as they shuttle between divorced parents.

Written from the child's point of view, this book will help parents simplify family life as children transition between parents.  Filled with facts and practical advice, The Switching Hour stresses that, even with the best intentions and parenting skills, children and parents must come to terms with living divided lives.

"Besides parents experiencing a divorce, The Switching Hour should be read by every teacher, child care worker, minister and children's worker. Perhaps every lawmaker, judge, lawyer, social worker, and welfare staff should also be required to read it."
--Linda Ranson Jacobs, DC4K (DivorceCare for Kids) Executive Director

"Profound, passionate, courageous, deeply insightful . . . Dr. Flesberg has heeded Elijah’s call 'to turn the hearts of parents to their children.' (Malachi 4:6 and Luke 1:17). To read and use this book is to be confident that our children in our homes, churches and synagogues will be loved, protected, listened to, and cared for during their parents divorce and all the years following. Clergy often witness role reversal in divorce where the children cease to be the children and become the caretakers of their parents. Dr. Flesberg provides a concrete book which helps any parent and child to keep close through and following divorce. There is real healing on these pages. This book is a warm coat in a chilling wind. Professor Flesberg’s book fulfills an urgent need in our homes and faith communities. There is healing, God’s healing, in these pages. Help has come.
--April Ulring Larson is Bishop of the LaCrosse, Wisconsin Area of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

"In this book, Dr. Flesberg makes the point that children in divorce have feelings. They are more than just chess pieces to be moved around to satisfy the needs or demands of the parents. The painful and poignant stories in this book, told from the perspective of a child, should help parents, attorneys, judges, mediators, and counselors understand how to consider children more in their plans. She makes it clear the traumatic toll on children is all too real. Dr. Flesberg gives many good suggestions and thought-provoking ideas to help parents and children post-divorce."
--Marietta Shipley,The Mediation Group of Tennessee, LLC, Nashville

"Some 20 million children in the U.S. are shuttled between divorced parents. At each change, at each 'switch' of location, children confront burdens and fears visible only to themselves. In this generous book, Dr. Flesberg reveals those burdens and fears to the parents, grandparents, teachers, and counselors who wish to help. The Switching Hour is an essential book for families, teachers, and caretakers."
--Volney P. Gay, Ph. D., Vanderbilt University, Nashville

"Through quotations, letters, postcards, and vivid scenarios and vignettes, Evon Flesberg captures the hardship that children of divorce experience by living in two homes. She also gives specific suggestions for helping children cope with 'the switching hour' and other challenges in their lives."-- -William Bernet, M.D., co-author of Children of Divorce: A Practical Guide for Parents, Therapists, Attorneys, and Judges

"Evon Flesberg, has written an important work. She illuminates our understanding by flipping the switch on a national dilemma: kids of divorce saying hello and goodbye again and again. The poignant stories of these kids present us with voices most often never heard, and give us insights to their fears, pain, frustrations, and challenges. Begging the question . . . What can we do? Evon presents clear guidelines of both words that can be spoken and actions to take that will make all the difference in the lives and future of these children. Her recommendations will serve as a guide to true caring, compassion, and understanding .
--Teresa Flint-Borden, author, Women Married to Men in Ministry: Breaking the Sound Barrier Together

From the Circuit Rider review: "The Switching Hour is that somewhat anguished period of time, that period of difficult and often uncomfortable 'hello’s' and 'goodbye’s' as a child moves between the home of one divorced parent to the home of another. The Switching Hour is a resource that is needed and long overdue." 


Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

While underdeveloped, this well-intentioned attempt at listening to the heartbreaking voices of children of divorce struggle between two households merits some serious attention. A pastor and counselor in Nashville, Tenn., Flesberg offers eight brief chapters delineating the conflicts children express, in letters and quotes, as they are literally torn between lives with mothers and fathers, lost in the "liminal" place somewhere in between. They bemoan not seeing both parents every day and having constantly to move between two places they are supposed to call home. They express frustration at always being in a state of expectation, guilt and sometimes terrible disappointment, such as when a parent doesn't show up. The children do not look forward to stressful holidays, deflecting attacks by one parent at another or having to accept new step-family. As well, children relay their questions and confusions regarding their relations with God, Christian or otherwise. In review chapters and checklists, Flesberg gears this guidebook toward divorced parents who need and want to ease their children's bewilderment and distress. There is a great deal of important information, although it deserves much more development than this slim book provides. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

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Abingdon Press
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Read an Excerpt

The Switching Hour

Kids of Divorce Say Good-bye Again
By Evon O. Flesberg

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2008 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-687-64976-1

Chapter One



Imagine that on a bright blue sunny day, you are told that from now on your family will have two homes instead of one. And the second house isn't a summer home. Your loved ones will always be in different places. You're an adult, so you say, "I've seen a lot of people go through a divorce or breakup." After whatever negotiating is necessary, you gather the things that have been declared yours and you start over. "Yes, it's painful. I miss my kids when they're not here, but I'm glad that I do not have to be in the midst of daily tension with my kids' other parent." Time helps the hurt.

Now enter a child's body; you are told that both of your parents will no longer be living in the place that you've been calling home. Two people whom you love intensely will now live in different places. When you come home from school, you know that only one parent's belongings will be there. The music, clothes, books, pets, and treasures of the other parent will have been removed. The child asks, "Do they think I won't be reminded by all the empty spaces that they left in our house? The silence is deafening after years of my parents talking, laughing, crying, and fighting. Our life has been split in two."

There's more. Now your parents want you to spend time with both of them, but in two different places. You will move between two parents' homes until you are no longer under their custody. Your healing will not come easily. You will constantly be reminded of the tension and hurt that caused this two-world existence in the first place. Like the Bible story, you are the baby whom Solomon threatened to divide when two women each claimed it as her own. You have been divided. Where is your home? With Mom? With Dad? Between them at some midpoint? Like the writer of the "Dear Daddy" letter at the beginning of this chapter, you will miss your absent parent; you may try to hide your sadness, and you will beg not to be forgotten.


As a child, unlike your parents who ended their partnership and who no longer have to see each other except when they drop you off or on the occasional big event, you will travel like an astronaut between their two planets for many years. The years of the switching hour have begun. You will leave one parent's home, launch into the space between, and then enter the world of the other.

The switching hour is the time and experience of leaving one parent's home in order to be in the other parent's home at intervals decided by the parents or by the courts, most often without the input of children. The switching hour is also used as a metaphor, or shorthand way of speaking, about a way of life when parents are no longer together. Preparation for shuttling between parents—the many switching hour missions—will require no less attention than the space missions themselves. The pressures of launching and re-entry may feel as treacherous on the ground as they are in space travel.


Consider this, nearly half of first marriages end in divorce. Sixty percent of second marriages end in divorce. The result is that each year more than 1 million children in the United States become children of divorced or separated parents. That means at least 20 million children live the switching hour life. In addition, adult children of divorce and their children travel between parents, though normally not as frequently.

While their parents may be happier individually, the children still reside emotionally in the place between them. The divorce does not end, but rather begins, a life of additional stress for a child. What can be done to ease the pressure on children, who just by the fact they are children are already going through changes in their lives as they grow and mature?

Loving parents are troubled by stress in their children. What are you able to do? How can you help? In this book, I ask you to begin by paying closer attention to your child. Enter your child's mind. Try to imagine life as your child lives it. Listen to them and watch carefully. Though it may be difficult and uncomfortable for you, it is important to be aware of what happens to children as they enter the switching hour way of life.


As you and your children learn what this new life will be like, the children may have mixed or confused feelings. Children often feel guilty, thinking they caused the separation or divorce. Sometimes they may be relieved that the divorce they saw coming is finally over. They may be angry and blame one or both parents. They might feel nothing— just numbness. Whatever else they feel, as the reality of their divided lives sinks in, they will mourn their losses.

LOSS—a one-word description of all that follows from the announcement on that one blue day: "Sit down kids. Your dad and I have something to tell you. Everything's going to be okay, but your dad and I are breaking up. He's moving out tonight. Yes, we'll make sure you get to see him often. And of course, we'll split holidays."


I miss seeing both parents every day

For some children the sense of safety is lost and they are unable to rest; no longer knowing that both parents are safe and present, ready to defend and protect them from any danger. It means that there is half the amount of attention and energy to be shared with the child, even though the combined time available may have been brief when a child had two parents in the home.

A child had twice the possibility of being understood when she or he had two parents in the home. The temperament and personality of a child may more closely match that of his or her father rather than that of the mother. When it was time for setting rules and boundaries, a good cop–bad cop team created a sense that the children still had one parent "on their side."

I miss my home or having one place to call home

When parents separate, it is not uncommon for the family home to be sold. The parents don't want the memories, can't afford the mortgage, want to relocate to a new city, or to downsize; so there are often two new houses or apartments that the child will call home.

I miss my BIG family

For the kids who have had grandparents as a regular part of their lives, the grief and loss of missing them is more pain on top of pain. "Grandma babysat me until I was five. Then Mom and Dad divorced. Mom and I moved to the other coast. I didn't see my Grandma again until I was fifteen and she was dying. Mom let me fly back to see her. I cried and cried when she told me how much she had missed me all these years."

The grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins in one or both parents' families often disappear from the child's life after a split. For those of you in this place, you know it isn't always because travel is difficult or because there has been any alienation from your relatives. Often you say there's just so little time, you don't want to share the precious moments with anyone. Still, the children of the switching hour lose grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

I miss seeing my best friends all the time

Friends of all ages help us through life's rough spots. Think of your best friend for a minute. Did you smile?

When children experience their parents' breakup, friends are those to whom they turn for reassurance that everyone who cares about them has not left. Their friends tell them that they will be okay or what divorce is like for them.

Then another announcement comes. Although Mom has her new apartment, Dad and son are moving out of the city for the country life Dad has always wanted. It's time for Dad to make a new start, but the new beginning for Dad means more endings and losses for the child.

"How will I ever make new friends when these kids have been together since they were five? We're in high school now; I'm not a jock, hardly a stud! Who'll sit with me at lunch? Life sucks!" —OR— "My old friends didn't seem excited to see me anymore when I went back for the holidays with Mom. I guess I wasn't that important to them after all. I miss my buddies and all the good times we had."

I miss my old school

Mom and Dad's split often means a move and a new school for the children. With all the other changes happening in their lives, there is pressure to make new friends, establish themselves in new clubs and on new ball teams, as well as to adjust to new teachers and new school buildings. It makes figuring out what they want to do when they grow up and where they want to attend college overwhelming for many. They worry about the future. College? Is there still money for that?

I've left the neighborhood

"I loved running up the street for the ice cream truck, past the empty lot where we played ball, past my best friend's house, by my first grade teacher's house and her flowerbeds. I could tell you the history of my first ten years running up that street. Then it was over. Dad found a new love. He didn't want to pay a big mortgage on two houses in nice subdivisions, soooo—good-bye, sweet memories. I live in an apartment on the other side of town."

Consider all that is familiar about where you are living. You know how quickly you can pick up the milk you need, where to rent the best DVDs, where you can get the juiciest hamburger, and where the fiercest dogs are in your walk around the block. These are parts of your daily surroundings that you take for granted. When the children of the switching hour move, all of that is lost. In half the time, or less, they often have to become familiar with two new neighborhoods, so that they can feel at home in each. The life the children expected is gone.

Now I don't know if there's enough money

The sense of financial security can be lost. For the children of the switching hour, there is often a profound shift in their household finances. If they're in the custody of their mothers, their standard of living will for the most part be lower than before the breakup. Some report that after a divorce the finances available to women are "reduced by 15 to 30 percent" whereas income of fathers "often remains the same or increases or decreases slightly" (Carter and McGoldrick, The Expanded Family Life Cycle, 391).

"Before my parents' divorce, I never worried about money. Suddenly, I wasn't sure if there would be money for my sports equipment or not. I'd ask Mom, and she'd say she was paying Dad enough child support for that, too. Then she'd want to know just how he was spending all the money she was sending. I couldn't tell her. Sometimes I feel guilty, like all these money problems are because of me and my kid brother and our child support payments. I hear about this at both houses."

I've lost the feeling that everything's going to be okay

The separation of parents changes a child's whole world. Mom and Dad could fix what went wrong; now Mom and Dad are what has gone wrong. The child wonders, "What else will happen to me? Why aren't we going to Disneyland this year? We planned that last summer. Now when I'm away from my other parent, I worry about him or her. What will happen next? Will they want me to come back? Will they meet someone new with kids? Will I have to share my room? That's what happened to my friend, Pete. I don't want to hurt like this ever again. Maybe it's better not to trust again. I don't want love to hurt this much."

Loss is difficult even if the future looks bright. Kids expect things to change, but often are not prepared for the long-term consequences when their parents break up, such as the pain of missing the absent parent, having separate holidays, or worrying about money for living expenses. As a parent you can help your children by anticipating what may lie ahead.


There is nothing a child can do about the breakup of his or her parents' relationship. Unlike the couple that separates once, the child has repeated experiences of reuniting and separating. The leaving and grieving continue. For the children, each visit may reawaken the missing, the longing, and the hurt.

They do not want to be away from a parent. They are always "visiting," bonding ever tighter, then leaving again and loosening the bond. The phone calls, e-mails, letters, and pictures do not fill the parental hole that only a warm embrace and face-to-face conversation can fill.

"I'm always missing somebody." These are the words of a sixteen-year-old boy who traveled between parents (Nick Sheff, "My Long-Distance Life," Newsweek, February 19, 1999). This phrase captures the essence of the life lived between two parents. Where's the peace and comfort of being at rest?


If you have been unwillingly transferred to another country for your work, you understand the sudden shift that happens in a child's life. Deployed military personnel know life in two worlds well. There's the one you're in and the one you're missing.


Excerpted from The Switching Hour by Evon O. Flesberg Copyright © 2008 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Author Evon O. Flesberg, Ph.D., M. Div., LCPT is the founder of A Talking Place Pastoral Counseling Service in Brentwood, Tennessee. Growing up in the Midwest, she did her undergraduate work at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. After graduating from Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque. Dr. Flesberg was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and served churches in Iowa. She went on to earn her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is currently a lecturer in pastoral theology and pastoral counseling. In addition, she is a Diplomate in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

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