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info for educators

When parents divorce, children may turn to teachers and others in their schools because you are already important people in their lives. They may see you as a stable and concerned presence during the stress of big changes in their lives. Here are some specific things you can do to help them.

  1. Provide consistency and structure. Children thrive on routine and clear expectations for their behavior.With so many things changing in their lives, they may look to their school as a place that provides stability and support. Listen to and accept their feelings, but set limits on behaviors that are unacceptable.
     
  2. Affirm and reinforce their strengths. Let them know that they are valued through your smiles and positive feedback for their efforts as well as their progress. Many children say they do not want to be pitied, but they do want to hear about what they do well. Give them opportunities for leadership to build on their strengths.
     
  3. Watch for behavioral signals of underlying problems. When children are unruly or withdrawn, or if they exhibit dramatic changes in behavior patterns, these may be signals that something is going wrong in their lives. Children whose parents are in conflict or are undertaking a separation or divorce often have very powerful feelings, but they are also very likely to try to hide those feelings, especially from their parents. As a result, the stress they feel can produce difficult or disturbing behaviors that spill over into the classroom. If they are willing to talk with you about what’s going on in their lives, you may be able to help them deal with their feelings or help them to find resources to address their needs.
     
  4. Encourage the adoption of an evidence-based prevention program in your school. Children whose parents divorce often feel alone in their experiences and feelings and isolated from their peers. Supportive group programs such as the Children of Divorce Intervention Program, developed by Dr. Pedro-Carroll, have been proven to provide significant and lasting benefits for children.
     
  5. Encourage the adoption of evidence-based parenting programs for divorcing or divorced parents. All children need quality parenting, with abundant love and consistent limits on their behavior. Children who are experiencing major life changes—such as those brought about by divorce—especially need the security of effective parenting. You may help the children in your school by helping their parents find a program in your school district or local community.
     
  6. Help children develop an accurate understanding of their parents’ divorce. Children need to understand that they did not cause, and cannot solve, the problems between their parents. But many children and teens develop serious emotional difficulties because they somehow believe they are to blame. You may be in a position to help uncover those feelings and lead children to a more accurate understanding of the changes in their family.
     
  7. Encourage parents to focus on their children’s best interests. Convey that children benefit from the loving support of both parents in their lives. Educators often hear the overflow of parents’ emotions and thoughts about each other, since school is the connecting point for their children. In meetings with parents, or even in informal encounters, you can help children by discouraging their parents from criticizing, blaming, or denigrating the other parent in front of their children. Children understand that both parents are somehow a part of them, and when a parent is made to look bad, children often feel that they are somehow defective, too.
     
  8. Communicate with parents regularly about their children’s strengths as well as problems or concerns. When there are concerns, take a problem-solving approach with a plan for improvement. Divorce means that parents and children are going through one of the most stressful times of their lives—and it can continue for many months. Your support, understanding and encouraging words about their child can make an enormous difference.
 

NAPPA Gold Award, 2010, National Parenting Publications Awards

2010 Mom's Choice Awards® Gold Recipient


Putting Children First:
Proven Parenting Strategies for Helping Children Thrive Through Divorce
 

 

 

 


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2010 JoAnne Pedro-Carroll