School Can Be Safe Place For Children Going Through Divorce Or Separation
When a couple divorces, the children are obviously affected by the change in living circumstances. All children react differently. Some may experience severe emotional responses. Others may be somewhat relieved as there is not that constant tension between their parents. In all cases however, there will a period of adjustment. Your child’s emotional and social well-being are at stake and how they are able to cope can have an impact on their learning. Parents should not overlook their children’s teachers and how the school can help make the transition and adjustment easier. Often when going through a divorce parents are overwhelmed and stressed and providing the support for their children without any help can be difficult.
During a separation and a divorce it is good to maintain as normal of a routine at home, but no matter how hard you try to do that, it is just not the same as it was before. When your children go off to school, it is often conceived by them as their safe place. It offers a routine and a constant that isn’t changing. Be sure to be open with your child’s teacher and let them know of your new status.
Children Will Feel Comfortable Talking And Sharing Their Feelings With Their Teacher
Don’t put the teacher in a position to choose sides between you and your spouse. They do not need to know the details of your divorce. They do need to know details such as end of the day dismissal routines and the status as far as if it is a joint custody arrangement. Encourage the teacher to communicate with you and to let you know if he or she sees any changes in behavior. When teachers are made aware of the divorce, they can be a source of support. Many children will feel comfortable talking and sharing their feelings with their teacher or guidance counselor.
Teachers Helped Their Students During Parents Divorce
In Victoria Australia, Linda Mahony a senior lecturer in education at Charles Sturt University reports that 1 in 2 marriages in Australia result in divorce. She found that there was not that much known about how teachers helped their students who had parents who were divorcing. She conducted a study with teachers in regional Victoria. Most of the study was conducted by interviewing teachers to see what their experiences were with students in their classrooms whose parents were divorcing or had separated. The majority of teachers believed that when children feel secure and safe, learning increases.
Some of the effective actions teachers in the study used included creating an environment that was both safe and friendly so that the student felt comfortable sharing their feelings. They remained consistent with expectations, rules and school routines. They felt it was important to make sure the child is included in groups both on the playground and in the classroom. Communication between teacher and both parents is essential to keep an eye on how the student is coping, academically as well as socially and emotionally. In addition the teachers suggested the importance of encouraging children to be responsible for managing their own behavior and to encourage them to make good choices.
There can be financial hardships in a divorce so the interviewed teachers encouraged others to be aware of this and if a student needed financial assistance with school trips, camps, or food, they reached out to their school to help assist. They also pointed out during the transition time, the students might need some extra tutoring or academic assistance, so they were on the lookout for that.
In addition to the support of your child’s teacher, reach out to other staff members. School counselors can be a wonderful resource. They are skilled at communicating with students and can help be a sounding board for your child. They can also help if there are any type of custody issues and be made aware if there is any type of possible parental kidnapping. If your child is experiencing anger issues with you, the counselor may be able to help mediate between you and your child.
Schools Have Support Programs For Children Of Divorce
In addition to the classroom teacher and the counselor, many schools have support programs that are available to students whose parents are divorcing. One support group is a school based program called CODIP or Children of Divorce Intervention Program. It is a program that works with 4th-6th grade aged children and it provides a forum where they can share their experiences. It teaches coping skills through group discussions, film, and role playing. It is designed to help decrease the feeling of seclusion, feeling different, and any stigma they may associate with their family’s new status. Click here to read more about CODIP.
Rainbows for all Children
Another successful program is Rainbows for all Children. It is offered through individual facilitators as well as through schools, so if your school does not offer it look at their website to find a local faciliatory. This program has been helping children for over 32 years to cope and deal with divorce. It is a free program and has helped more than three million children. Click here to read more about Rainbows for all Children.
If your school does not have either of these programs available inquire if they have any in house group sessions. It is common for schools to offer support groups led by a counselor for students who are finding it difficult to adjust to a divorce. Many children are comforted by sharing thoughts and experiences with peers, knowing they are not the only one going through a tough time.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that your child’s teacher and school are invested in their success in the classroom and because of that they are motivated to working with the student and the students’ parents who are going through this change. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help from the school. It is a great source for you and for your child!
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.