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Divorce's Impact on Schoolwork

 

Q. I am getting ready for my first parent-teacher conference after my divorce last spring. Now that I'm a single mom, I'm looking for ways to help my two daughters through this difficult transition. I can tell they are being affected by all that has gone on. They are in second and fifth grades. How do I talk about this with my kids' teachers, and what should I be asking them to help me with?

 

It's an excellent idea to let your hair down with the teachers at conference. Let them know that you are concerned about your daughters' emotional adjustment, and want to know what you can do to preserve their peace of mind as well as academic attainment. Teachers have a lot of experience in working with divorced parents, and will be a good source of empathy and tips for your benefit, and your children's as well.

 

Good teachers will be sensitive to the child's emotional status, expecting good days and bad days. Teachers should let children of divorce know that they are available to listen to their concerns without passing judgment or invading the family's privacy. They can encourage the children to participate in a support group, if one is offered through the school or through a social-service agency, church or volunteer group in the community. Last, but not least, most schools have a counselor or psychologist on staff who can render additional aid if needed.

 

Here are three things divorced parents can do that can really help with school performance:

 

n       Keep a peaceful home so that your children can relax and focus on school.

 

n       Encourage your "ex" to be involved at school functions and both of you attend them, including the parent-teacher conference; bury the hatchet for these short events.

 

n       Make sure your child's attendance at school is very good.

 

It's a fact: children from intact homes tend to do better in school, according to social science reports. Children whose parents remain married get higher grades and have higher rates of attendance than their counterparts from divorced families. Their GPA's tend to be at least 10% higher than their peers of equal ability who are in broken homes. Their attendance records, compared to children from single-parent homes, are better, suggesting that insisting on good school attendance after divorce is a crucial and practical priority for single parents, according to Americans for Divorce Reform.

 

John Crouch, executive director, says the scholarly consensus says divorce overall is bad for children. They don't just "bounce back," and many struggle for many years or a lifetime. While there are exceptions, staying within the marriage is usually the best course of action for parents who are able to make the adjustments necessary to do that, and put the priority on what's best for the children. But of course, that's not always possible, and children of divorce can, and do, succeed very well in school and in life, all the time. The difference is in effective parenting, which takes time and effort, but can be done.

 

Note: research indicates that girls in single-parent homes or stepfamilies seemed to struggle even more than boys. This is apparently because of the lack of a strong relationship with their birth father and the difficulty of establishing a solid new relationship with the stepfather. You may consider counseling for your daughters to help guide them toward attitudes and practices that will prevent problems on down the road.

Homework: Two good books are What Children Need to Know When Parents Divorce by William Coleman, and Helping Children Survive Divorce by Dr. Archibald Hart. See also the positive impact that a divorced father who is involved at his children's school can have in this report from the National Center on Education Statistics, www.nces.ed.gov/pubs98/98117.pdf

 

By Susan Darst Williams www.ShowandTellforParents.com Coaching Your Child 03 2008

 

 

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