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Helping Children Cope with Divorce

Helping Children Cope with Divorce

Parenting: Four Tips for Parents Helping Children Deal with a Marital Break-up



After a divorce, you should monitor five areas of your child’s life to see how they're coping with divorce. (Clarke-Stewart, Alison. Divorce: Causes and Consequences. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006)  

1. School:
Children from divorced families have a greater risk of doing poorly in school, especially adolescents. Some studies show that adolescents from divorced families are twice as likely to drop out of school. Elaine Shimburg, author of "The Complete Single Father," suggests to both parents that if “school work is suffering, go meet with the teacher together, so the teacher and the kids know that you are a team when it comes to your kids.”  

2. Relationship with siblings:
During a divorce, parents have a tendency to give older children a parental role over their younger siblings. Extra help around the house may be justified, but children should not be given the caregiving tasks of an adult.  

3. Grandparents:
Grandparents can provide valuable support during a divorce. Children who have close relationships with their grandparents will have fewer adjustment problems.  

4. Free time:
Infants and toddlers need more support during imaginative play. School-age children may begin to steal or become violent. Adolescents may engage in delinquent acts or become antisocial.  

5. Outlook on life:
Adolescents from divorced families have a higher chance of starting to smoke or use other drugs. Some develop low self-esteem and become depressed. Younger children may feel depressed while preschoolers may feel responsible for the divorce. The National Association of Social Workers cautions “not to panic” if feelings of loss occur following separation but “if feelings and behaviors do not begin to diminish after a few months seek counseling.”  

Dave Bolster is a writer based in Kansas City. He was an elementary school teacher for five years and often writes on education issues. He is currently working on his second book about his travels in rural China.

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