By Rosalind Sedacca, CDC
Not surprisingly, many divorces take place during the spring and summer. This gives families time to adapt to the changes ahead. But it also makes returning to school a challenge for many children of divorce. Here are suggestions for parents to help ease the transition by tapping into the many resources available through the school. That’s why it’s wise to develop a cooperative relationship with key school personnel.
Before school starts it’s wise to inform your child’s teachers about the divorce and any changes in your home environment. The more aware they are, the better prepared they can be to help your child. After all, school is often a second home for children – and that may be very comforting during this time of changes and uncertainty.
Be Alert For Deep Feelings & Raw Emotions
You can’t expect children to not be affected by your divorce or separation. So expect raw emotions to come to the surface, including fear, shame, anger, guilt and many forms of insecurity. Be aware that these complex feelings are likely to affect a child’s focus, self-esteem, as well as relationships with their friends – not to mention the impact on their academic performance.
Take advantage of the fact that most children trust and feel safe with their teachers. So schedule a conversation with teachers and administrators as early as you can. Discuss the status of your post-divorce arrangements. Having the teacher as an ally can help your child feel more secure and less alone.
Let School Be Your Child’s Ally
The following guidelines can support you in using school system resources to your child’s advantage:
1. Being compassionate by nature, teachers can look for signs of distress or depression in your child. They can talk with your child about their feelings. Teachers can let your child know they are not to blame for your divorce and cannot change what is happening. They can explain that your child is not the only one at school going through these difficulties. Messages like this can reinforce prior conversations you’ve already had with your child. It also reassures them that the divorce is not a big dark secret. It can be discussed candidly without shame.
2. Equally valuable is scheduling time to talk with your child’s guidance counselor. These professionals are trained to handle challenging circumstances. They can be an ally to you and your children and should be counted on for support and guidance.
3. Look at these educators as members of your child’s support team. They have the background to detect signs of depression, aggression or other behavior changes that need to be addressed with you as soon as possible. So ask them to be attentive toward your child.
4. Be sure to ask about and take advantage of school divorce support groups. They are designed to encourage children to talk with one another, sharing their feelings during or after the divorce. It’s helpful to know they’re not alone, that they’re accepted and that others are facing or have experienced similar life-altering circumstances. That awareness gives children a sense of belonging. Many children make new friends with others who are sharing their experiences. The less alone a child feels, the easier it is to accept the challenges they will be facing in the weeks and months to come.
5. If your school doesn’t have a support group for children of divorce, ask about getting one started. Moving beyond divorce is a life-long process for kids, so there is much need for professional support to keep kids on track long after the divorce itself is over. Also suggest co-parenting support classes as well.
Nothing Replaces Your Own Parental Responsibilities
Of course, schools cannot replace parental responsibilities. It’s essential to talk to your child before they return to school. Prepare them for changes in routine or scheduling ahead. Inform them about whom they can talk to at school if they are feeling sad or have questions about adjusting to new situations. Let school be your child’s best friend at this time. It can be a great support system for your family if you take advantage of the experience and useful resources available.
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Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books and e-courses on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book
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© Rosalind Sedacca All rights reserved.