Here are tips for parents, and divorce professionals to help keep divorce out of the schools.
Children bringing their parents’ divorce drama into the classroom is disrupting.
It wastes teaching time and can cause other students to lose focus on their lessons. It is not fair to anyone.
A first step is informing various school personnel of the divorce situation. School staff cannot be fully supportive if they have no clue what is going on in a child’s life.
I worked with students, parents and staff with divorce issues in the schools. Some of the problems were due to lack of communication between parents and staff.
It can be embarrassing for a child to be asked what they did over the weekend with their parents in front of the other students. They do not want to say, I went from’ Mum’s house to stay with dad. The teacher who is not informed, can put a child in an awkward spot. It is up to adults, not children, to explain what is going on at home.
Teachers and the school secretary need to know to send copies of reports and letters to each parent. Then both are on the same page. When I did not realize a divorce was in progress, an uncomfortable student would ask which parent was to receive the test results.
It is up to each parent to make sure the school has their e-mail address for newsletters and so forth. Both parents can check the school’s web site for events and updates.
A child is not to be told, by a parent that they were not aware of an event at school. Do not put kids in the middle.
A fallout from divorce is that the student does not have all they require for class. Some leave homework at the other parent’s house.
One time a sobbing child was in my office while I called a father to bring in an item left behind at his house the prior week. It was a crucial piece of a project which had to presented in class that morning. Unfortunately, this occurred with other students as well.
Get a system, such as a check list which stays with the child between homes.
Parents, do not overshare divorce details with your offspring. That seems quite obvious, however it is not always put into practice.
I had to deal with students who were upset or on the verge of vomiting when distressed over the minutia of their parent’s divorce.
One boy spent time in my office while his parents were with solicitors, fighting over a shared care schedule. He did not know if he was moving house, or would not see one parent very much. Just say “we have a meeting with solicitors” and leave it at that. Why does anyone need to know what is on the agenda for each divorce session?
Schools often send home a form to be filled out with contact information and any additional notes about the student. If one parent is not allowed to pick up their son or daughter, or is out of the picture, make sure to write that down.
I asked a five-year-old which parent should I call, when he was sick in my office. The little guy got upset and said “mum.” Although nothing was put in the official contact form, his teacher later told me that the father had abandoned his family.
In another instance, a form had both parents and their mobile numbers. When the little girl was sick, I called her mum first and left a message that I would try dad. Her father explained that he was out of town at the moment.
Her step-father later came storming into my office and screamed that the father should never be called. I showed him the form which listed the father. He calmed down when he realized that his wife had never informed the school about this situation. He and his wife promptly took care of it.
A ploy of a divorcing parent can be to try and get school staff on their side.
We are not going to get caught up in the conflict and choose one parent over the other. Our job is to be supportive of the students and remain neutral about their parents.
If your child is anxious about the divorce and is bringing it into the classroom, consider short term counselling.
My two boys met with a therapist during divorce and for a bit afterwards. It helped them to be calmer and more centred, both in and out of school. Talking to a professional or impartial adult, will help kids sort out their concerns instead of bringing them into school.
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certified in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).
Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 200 published articles.
She is a guest on radio programs in the US and UK. Her website is globalguidetodivorce.com.