How Divorce Affects Learning
When a couple decides to divorce, their children must face some harsh realities about the world. Sometimes people fall out of love, sometimes we have no control over our lives and sometimes the worst thing we can imagine, actually happens.
A recent article in Time magazine shows that although divorce rates are at a 40 year low, marriages still only have a 50/50 chance of survival. When children are involved, those breakups can have serious consequences for their mental wellbeing and their education.
Teachers and school administrators need to know when potentially upsetting and disruptive things are happening in as students home. This knowledge allows them to make any necessary provisions for students and allows them to offer appropriate support.
A divorce affects children in a number of ways:
The break-up of the family and possible fights and arguments that accompany such a breakup can cause uncertainty and sadness for young people. It’s common for children of divorce to feel out of control, and to experience confusion and grief for the loss of the family unit.
A breakdown of a marriage can often necessitate a change of address and moving in and of itself can be an incredibly stressful event. Children may worry about when they will be able to see the non-resident parent and can feel that they are displaced.
Emotionally stressful events can manifest as physical symptoms. Students may experience headaches, a change in eating habits and general aches and pains that can accompany depression.
How Can Educators Help?
Teachers provide a daily authority figure and point of consistent discipline and support for students.They can help students through a difficult time by doing the following things:
Maintain Home-School Links
Teachers need to keep the lines of communication open between home and school. They must also report honestly on the student's demeanor and emotional state. If young people are experiencing depression they need support and resources to access help immediately.
Provide Structure and Predictability
It can be helpful for teachers to limit the amount of changes students are expected to tolerate alongside the upheaval going on at home. Try not to introduce new rules, expectations or groupings unless absolutely necessary.
Be a Good Listener
Provide opportunities to allow the student to talk but accept that school may also be an escape from what is happening at home. They may not wish to share their feelings.
Remind the student of all their strengths and be their biggest cheerleader.
Divorce is hard on everyone involved, but the children are often the worst affected and need as much support and understanding as possible. Children are amazingly resilient and with access to the right resources and when surrounded by adults that keep their interest at the forefront they can emerge from their parent’s separation intact. Scientific America actually reports that children experience a ‘rapid recovery’ after their parent’s divorce. With the help of dedicated educators, they can heal and bounce back from the trauma of divorce.