Parents’ divorces and dating lives have spilled over into their children’s schools.
It does not matter who is right or who is wrong, when youngsters are drawn into adult matters.
When parents are out for revenge, the kids are affected by the divorce drama. Parents seem to assume that their offspring have told classmates of the divorce. Many have not.
Kids talk more in terms of activities – “I saw Star Wars with Dad” or “Mum took me ice skating” rather than “this is my week at Mum’s.” Classmates who see those parents (sometimes separately) at school have no clue they are not still married. It can be awkward when one parent starts bringing a date when they drop by school.
Public displays of parental affection often are embarrassing to kids. It is more mortifying when Mum smooches her new beau at school and some are not aware she is divorced.
Have a sense of decorum around the kid’s friends. One divorced mother happily announced at school that she was picking the kids up early so that they could accompany her and Tony for their weekend away in a nearby city. Her son cringed and looked at his shoes until they departed with his sister.
People will want to give you support during your divorce. They will inquire how things are with you. Either walk them outside of the school building before answering or say something vague.
Your child may not be within ear shot, but their classmates are around. Kids are gossips and will tell your youngster what they overheard. Please do not trash talk the other parent in front of your child. This happens at school, but there is no way the staff is going to take sides in that battle. Our job is to be of support to the students.
One mum said at school that she did not feel respected by her husband so was divorcing him in order to be a good example for her kids. I wondered how her children would know that she wanted “to be a good example” since personal information like that is not their business.
Parents are to state that they are separating without putting down their spouse. When feeling betrayed or angry, express those emotions to a friend or therapist.
Good communication between co-parents, school, and children is the key to making life smoother for the kids.
Make it clear that you each want a copy of reports and advise the staff of your family situation.
I did a vision test on a young student who was going to need glasses. I gave her a written recommendation for follow up with an eye doctor. She asked which parent was to receive it. I quickly made another copy for her. She then told me that her parents were separating. This uncomfortable moment could have been avoided if the parents had given us an update.
Another problem is when each parent assumes that the other one got needed items for a project. I had to call a divorced dad for a crying child who lacked something crucial for the science fair which was starting in one half hour. Do not assume that the co-parent got school supplies or specially needed materials.
Sometimes students are sent to my office because they are lethargic in class. When assessing them, I discover that one parent does not have a set bedtime for them and they were up late. Kids need routines, whether it is for meals or bedtimes. They cannot do well in school when their lives are so inconsistent from each home and getting sleep is not a priority.
A school kid getting caught up in the parent’s maelstrom can be deadly.
A child was stuck between two warring parents who were on their way to divorce.
One afternoon at school, their eleven year old reached a breaking point and threatened to kill himself. He was escorted to my office where I did an assessment and made an appointment for that day at the crisis centre. His stunned parents were summoned to pick him up and they signed a form promising to take him to that appointment.
Kids cannot live in a long-term angry, hostile environment.
The majority of students adjust to their parents’ divorces and going back and forth between homes. Co-parenting usually gets easier with time. I see divorced parents happily greeting each other in the school halls and doing a quick catch up regarding each other’s lives.
Wendi Schuller is a nurse, hypnotherapist and is certied in Neuro-linguistic Programing (NLP).
Her most recent book is The Global Guide to Divorce and she has over 100 published articles.