How can teachers handle children of divorced parents or kids going through custody battles?
Children of divorced and divorcing parents, especially those where there are custody battles, will experience a range of different emotions spanning the gamut from intense depression to volatile anger. Perhaps the single most important thing that a teacher can do is to emphasize to the student that their parent's divorce is in no way their fault.
A common behavior that children exhibit at school is that of attention-seeking behavior, for obvious reasons. They usually are in a shuffle "at home." While acknowledging that the child is having a difficult time at home and being left out, they must at the same time be held accountable for appropriate behavior in school. This is one way that a teacher can aid in teaching children "the facts of life"; although we are experiencing problems in one area of our lives, we will still be expected to perform in other arenas.
If children exhibit a great deal at anger, aggressive behavior or "acting out" behavior they probably should be referred to the school counselor for more individual attention. Certainly parents should be notified of any behavior the classroon that is inappropriate or noteworthy.
Another common pattern that children may exhibit is that of extreme sadness and isolation, refusing to participate in any activities, and not wanting to play or share time with their peers. This behavior can often be lessened by giving the child a helper role either in group projects or in other classroom activities or perhaps the teacher can come up with special projects to make the child feel included and important. Again in all cases, information as to how the child is doing in school should be shared with both parents.
JANN GLASSER, MFCC, LCSW
ROBERT GLASSER, ESQ
FAMILY MEDIATION ASSOCIATES