Dealing with Divorced Parents

As many of your know, the way families look have changed a lot over the last 10 to 20 years. Dealing with divorced parents as an educator isn’t easy. Our life experiences maybe shield us from what some families go through. Sometimes, we do not understand situations that we haven’t experienced ourselves. This post is meant to provide tips for dealing with families of divorce to help make information sharing easier. We are all in education for the best interest of children and in order to have their best interest, we need solid relationships.

I was a child of divorce. All though I never envisioned my children being “children of divorce”. I know many things that caused it but ultimately, school was a safe place during this transition of life for our family. School was the consistent thing in my children’s lives. Several teachers went above and beyond with my children and this ended making a life long effect. This post is coming from the point of view as a teacher, parent, stepparent and child of divorce on tips for dealing with divorced parents. Divorce causes so much heart ache and often people who are in the middle of it, might not be the best version of themselves at that time.

It’s important as educators to give grace to people who might not be acting like themselves. These life changes are very challenging for parents how to navigate through them. Teachers can be a huge help to a family during a divorce. As an educator, it was natural for teachers to communicate with just me. They had done that most of my children’s lives. It’s important though to take these steps to not only protect yourself, but the quality of life for the student.

Communicate with Both Parents while Dealing with Divorced Parents

Ensure that both parents are on classroom communications, e-mail lists, receive classroom calendars, and etc. Make sure if you communicate with just one parent, for example, “Johnny was not at school today, is he okay?”, be sure that you send that to both parents, regardless of which one you have a relationship with. Fathers are often left out of conversations or not given the same opportunity the mother is given. This can be avoided with only communicating with both parents. Do not have conversations with one parent about the other parent. I would also recommend to encourage communication with both parents regardless of divorce or not. It’s just best practice and eliminates a lot of issues. Both parents should have equal access to children’s school activities, records and events. In the event a conference is needed, you should invite both parents.

If you know a student is in a blended family, be sure to ask who the members are that are involved. Students want to feel like their family isn’t abnormal, even if it is. Family changes such as divorce and remarriage are NOT the fault of the student. Children with step families usually have a large army of people who love and support them.

Maintain Consistency in the Classroom for All Students

Creating a classroom environment that runs on structure and routines is vital for any family, but especially a blended family. There are a lot of moving parts to a blended family and it’s important to create predictable routines for students. This allows students to feel safe and understand what is going on. Students really thrive off of routines and procedures.

Ask About The Custody Agreement

You should be aware of the custody agreement as far as schedule goes. I am not suggesting you keep up with 30 students comings and goings but it’s a good idea if you have parents in the middle of a divorce or newly divorced, for you to know these things. The good news is, once parents and students get used to their new schedules, things seem to become more normal. Another reason to ask about this is that there might be restrictions for one parent and it’s important to know what those might be.

Be Accepting of Divorced Families

If a student decides to share with you their feelings about their parents divorce, try to be accepting and open minded. We never know exactly what causes these things but there’s usually more to the story. It’s important to listen to the students without providing judgement or condemning the parent. If the student seems depressed or undergoing a psychological change, be sure to let the counselor know. They may have other resources and ideas to help students.

Be Inclusive

When the opportunity arises about discussions of families, it’s important to mention that families look very different for everyone. The goal here is that all of the students feel included, regardless of our personal beliefs on how families look. The students are the key here. The classroom is NOT the place for you to discuss your beliefs on divorce. The important theme here is be careful what words you use. Please do not use the terms “broken home” or “real parent”. A child may feel as if their stepparent is just as much of a parent. It’s not our job to change that feeling. Students can be loved by a variety of people and that’s okay.

At the end of the day, the most important take away is be understanding. Understand that divorce is traumatizing for students. Their behavior might not be the best. The parents may not be on their best behavior if the divorce is fresh. Divorce can be a nasty, life changing event that can cause a lot of pain. However, with boundaries and mutual respect, the impact on the children can be reduced.

Want more information on dealing with divorced parents? This is a great resource!

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