Roughly fifty percent of children attending school, have divorced parents. Here are some helpful tips from The Family Community, for teachers to help their students cope with the changes divorce brings to their lives.
.No matter the age of the children, divorce is an extremely emotional time. They are figuring out a whole new routine, navigating new parenting relationships and trying to manage their own emotions. Some children going through a divorce or separation appreciate coming to school to ‘get away’ from it all. Keep this in mind when deciding if, when, and how to reach out to a child. Let them know that it’s ok to talk or want help but that it’s not required. Sometimes school is a refreshing change from the stress of home.
Every child is different
Be in tune with the individual child, family, and situation. Just because you have supported a child through divorce in the past, doesn’t mean this particular child wants or needs the same kinds of support.
Communicate with both parents
This may be the most important tip. Though one parent may have led the school communication during marriage, this may change after divorce. Don’t assume that only one parent wants to hear from you. Check in with the person in your school who is in charge of parent communication to see if the non-custodial parent has filled out a form to receive regular communication. Reach out to the non-custodial parent to let them know there are ways to receive regular communication. Typically it’s best for the child to have both parents involved in their education. Often, this is a huge issue that family members are dealing with at home. One parent may be more “present” in the classroom, and that same parent might also be intentionally leaving the other parent out of the loop. It is always best for the children for both parents to receive any important information regarding their child.
Reach out to the school counselor
She may want to offer support to the child and parents. She may also be a support to the teacher in this situation. You can determine a nonverbal signal the child can use when they want to talk with the counselor. There may be unpredictable moments that the child feels strong emotions. It’s also important that the child understands that it isn’t embarrassing to need to talk to the counselor. Show them that this is a safe resource for them to take advantage of.
Is there a restraining order? Is there new contact information for either parent? What is the visitation schedule? Has the living situation changed? Has the childcare situation changed? All of this information will help you as a teacher make the most informed decisions about how to offer support to the child.
There are no hard and fast rules
Many schools suggest (or require) that you meet with both parents together for all parent conferences. Use your discretion. If the separation is fresh, being together may be too intense, painful, or may take away from the focus on the child. Talk with both parents and determine what is in the best interest of the child.
Holidays may bring particular stresses to children living through divorce. There will be new routines that they have to get used to, as well as the loss of some important family traditions. Predictability in the classroom is often a stress reliever. Holidays like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day or any “All About Me” projects may add additional stress or emotion.
Extract from an article, written by Shoshy Starr Collins, which originally appeared on www.thefamilycommunity.com.
Posted by Sinta Ebersohn (Creator of fairdivrce.co.za – Stellenbosch RSA)