Relationships Quick Answers
What can teachers and child care providers do to help children adjust to a divorce?
Children who are experiencing major disruptions in their family life need lots of structure and lots of affection. There are some good demonstrations that children going through divorce, especially those whose parents are unable to provide effective parenting, are positively affected by child care and school environments where they have structured routines and consistent discipline and warmth from teachers or caregivers. It is important for children who are disruptive and angry to receive consistent negative sanctions and to be rewarded by positive attention when they behave appropriately. Likewise, children who are withdrawn and disengaged need to be treated affectionately and positively, but they need to be strongly encouraged to engage in play and other activities with other children.
Many children partly cope with these events by writing or drawing about the things that trouble them. They overcome these struggles, in part, by working through what has happened in these abstract forms. Many children report that success in school or other activities provides a place where they can feel competent and ultimately feel able to deal with the challenges of their changing family.
Robert Hughes, Jr., Ph.D., Former Professor, Department of Human Development & Family Studies, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri-Columbia
Last update: Wednesday, August 20, 2008