My 7-year-old had a difficult time emotionally when his father and I divorced. His father was in denial of the problems and of no help. That left me to deal with the issue on my own with the help of a therapist and the many school resources available for children of divorce.
Taylor, our youngest’s world revolved around his family. His father picked him up at school one day and told Taylor he was leaving and never come back. He then dropped Taylor off in the driveway and drove away leaving him screaming in the driveway.
Taylor was at school one moment, the next he was standing in the driveway overcome with the feelings of a shattered foundation. Within two weeks he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. He started taking a low-dose antidepressant and seeing a therapist weekly.
Thanks to his therapist I was made aware of how Taylor’s school could also be of assistance with the emotional issues he was dealing with. And, that was a good thing because due to his anxiety, he had developed a fear of going to school.
My child’s story is not the norm. Most children who experience the divorce of their parents don’t develop severe emotional responses. But, all children who experience the divorce of their parents go through a period of adjustment. For that reason, knowing how your child’s school can be of assistance is valuable information to have.
School Resources Available to Children of Divorce:
Teachers as a Resource Available for Children of Divorce
My son’s teacher was valuable to me because she kept the lines of communication open. She was willing to sit down with him when she noticed a change in behavior and offer him a safe space to open up and talk to her about what was concerning him.
As a result, she often had information about how he was feeling that was helpful to his therapist and me in attempting to deal with and lessen his emotional stress caused by our divorce.
She was also a positive voice when he needed it most. His self-esteem took a beating when his father left. She, in her praise and willingness to see that he needed an extra pat on the head or gold star, was quite a valuable resource when it came to showing him he was worthy of care, attention, and love.
Although I did everything possible to keep a normal routine at home, his father was no longer there. No matter how much wheel spinning I did, things had changed drastically at home and it was like a dark cloud Taylor was constantly aware of. At school, his teacher was able to offer him a space in which routines had not changed. For 7 hours a day, he could go to school and feel normal.
If you want to enlist your child’s teacher in helping with the adjustment period, please don’t hesitate. I found my son’s teacher to be more than willing to help both him and me.
School Counselors as a Resource Available for Children of Divorce
In our situation, the school counselor worked together with Taylor’s therapist to accommodate his needs. The beauty of having the school counselor on board was that she was on hand daily should Taylor have a hard day and need someone to talk to. She became Taylor’s sounding board at school and a safe place for him to land when his anxiety reared its ugly head.
She didn’t view the divorce as a single negative event in Taylor’s life but an event with negative consequences for Taylor. She was good at helping Taylor adjust to those changes by discussing the positive, negative and neutral aspects of our divorce and its impact on him. I can’t say enough about her value to him and me during that time of transition.
Your child’s school counselor wears many hats when helping you and your child transition through divorce. They can become involved if there are custody issues and making sure the dangers of parental kidnapping are reduced. A counselor can mediate between you and your child if the child is having anger issues.
If your child develops problems with concentrating on schoolwork, becomes emotional in class, shows signs of depression or anxiety, there is a counselor on campus available and having that resource goes a long way in reducing stress and worry for parents of school-aged children.
School Support Programs Available for Children of Divorce
Children of Divorce Intervention Program (CODIP)
The Children of Divorce Intervention Program (CODIP) is a school-based program designed to work with fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade children of divorce. The program works with children in groups to provide a forum for children to share their experiences and teach skills to cope with divorce, through skits and role-plays, films, and group discussions.
The goal of the sessions is to decrease the children’s common feelings of seclusion, stigma, and being different. The results indicate that the experimental group improved greatly on the teacher ratings of problem behavior and social competence, and the parent ratings of adjustment and self-reported anxiety.
This is a program offered through schools and individual facilitators. If your school doesn’t offer the program you can find a local faciliatory via their website.
Rainbows for All Children has helped more than three million youth over the past 32 years and continues to make the sessions available to all children, regardless of age, race, gender or financial ability. The Rainbows program is free for all participants, and we continue to make the facilitator training and materials as low-cost as possible, so we can bring healthy processing to children in schools and groups across the country.
In-House Small Group Counseling
If your child’s school doesn’t offer a national program for children of divorce, ask if they have in-house group sessions available. Many schools offer age-based divorce support groups facilitated by school counselors for children who struggle with adjusting to their parent’s divorce.
Your child’s school is highly invested in the child succeeding in school. That motivates them to work with divorcing parents and their children. If your child is struggling and having problems with their schoolwork and adjusting to your divorce, don’t hesitate to reach out to their teachers, school counselors, and admins and ask for him.