The Southern novelist Pat Conroy once wrote, ”When mom and dad went to war the only prisoners they took were the children.”
Every parent hopes that their child gets through the divorce in one piece. Even if the divorce itself is not contentious (and many are), there can still be significant amounts of emotional stress. It’s hard
Of course, what goes on at home affects what goes on at school. Teachers and school staff spend a significant portion of the day with your children. It’s a safe bet that they will see behavioral or academic changes due to the divorce. However, they can also serve as a front line source for assistance and intervention.
Teachers have a vested interest in a child’s mental and emotional needs as well as their academic ones. A caring teacher wants every child in their classroom to learn. You can’t learn effectively if you are distracted, anxious, or extremely stressed.
It’s OK to confide in a teacher that you are going through a divorce. Let them know your concerns as they relate to school. Relate any information concerning behaviors at home that may find their way into the classroom. Ask the teacher to stay in close contact with you in order to head off any issues that may arise.
Many children see their teacher as a neutral third party, so they are willing to talk and share information they might not be willing to with a parent. Information like this can be valuable to assist parents and other caregivers (such as a therapist) in making sure the child’s needs are met.
Teachers can provide two very valuable things to a child experiencing a divorce: stability and self-esteem. By providing a set schedule that the child can count on, school becomes a safe space in a potentially chaotic situation. Also, a teacher can make an effort to provide more compliments and praise for good work, thus increasing the child’s self-esteem during a time when they are more vulnerable.
Of course, there may be times when your child needs to talk with someone outside of their classroom. In these instances, the school counselor can be an invaluable resource.
Counselors can effectively deal with issues of depression or anxiety that have a negative impact on functioning in a classroom setting. They can also assist in implementing any court orders that affect who can pick the child up from school or have access to educational records. A school counselor can also help to make sure that the school follows through on daily interventions a mental health professional recommends.
A school counselor may also be able to refer parents to specific programs designed to help children experiencing a divorce. CODIP (Children of Divorce Intervention Program) is a school based group for fourth through sixth grade students that teaches effective coping strategies. Programs like CODIP may be offered at your child’s school -- ask the school counselor what ones are available.
If you are in Henry, Clayton, or Fayette counties, or the greater Atlanta metro area, and need help advocating for your family as you navigate your divorce, we are ready to listen to your story and fight for you. Contact us today.