Students with Divorced Parents

In light of the recent announcement of actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin’s break up, I thought I’d go in a slightly different direction this week.  I thought I would share my views as a former teacher on what I noticed in the classroom, with students dealing with their parents’ separation or divorce. 

As a teacher, I always appreciated when parents of my students would let me know when a big change was taking place in their family.  One of those changes that occurred more frequently was parents separating or getting divorced.  Sometimes just knowing that helped me understand why a student was quieter than usual, or looked sad or wasn’t participating as much as he/she usually did.  The school counselor where I worked put together a group for students with divorced parents.  This was something I could offer the parents as a form of support.  Whether the parents opted to have their child join the group or not, was completely their choice, but it was one form of support the school could offer.  As a teacher, I spent the majority of the day with my students.  It was not unusual to notice something different about a student, and when I did, I could share this observation with his/her parents.  For example, if a student wasn’t turning in their homework as they had been doing, I could let the parents know.  If the child is now spending time at two different homes, the parents will want to have a plan for helping their child complete any homework given that day whether the child is with mom or dad that evening or week.  This may be very different from before.  In the past maybe only mom helped with homework, but now if Johnny is spending time with mom and dad during the week, both parents will have to help him complete his homework and remind him to turn it in the next day. 

One thing that can really help a child during this period of change is having both parents maintain as much of the child’s routine and schedule as possible.  Keeping bedtimes and getting up times as close to normal as possible will help.  If the child reads every evening to one parent for 15 minutes, then it will be very helpful if both parents add this activity into the evening routine when the child is at their home.   The communication between the two parents will be really important, especially when it comes to the child and school.  Making sure both parents are aware of school events and important dates will help make the child more comfortable.  If there’s a field trip coming up and the child needs to bring a sack lunch, it’s important that both parents are aware of this.  If dad usually packed lunches in the past, but Johnny is going to be with mom that morning, mom will be the one to pack his lunch for the trip.   

As the teacher I wanted to support my students and their families as much as I could.  Ultimately, I wanted what was best for the child, and I feel most parents want this as well.  Maintaining a schedule and routine in your child’s life can go a long way in helping that child know what to expect, and in turn will help the child feel secure and cared for.

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