Back-to-school tips for the divorcing parent



When a couple divorces, many times they attempt to keep the breakup quiet. Perhaps they are embarrassed– or feel it a private matter. More than likely though, one or both spouse are so overwhelmed with a range of decisions and emotions they are coping with that they don’t think about telling other people.

Often, schoolteachers are among the last to know. In a recent study 94% of teachers surveyed felt it’s important for parents to inform them of a divorce or other rupture in the marriage. But only 23% of divorcing parents surveyed said they shared that with the teacher. Many parents just don’t think about alerting those who will be caring for their children during the school year. Teachers and school staff are among the very people that need to know because they are the ones responsible for the child’s education.

For the divorcing parent

  • First of all, it is very important for the teachers to know and understand the family situation. This is especially true with the start of the new school year.
  • Make sure you also let the school counselor, the school nurse, the principal and the school secretary or receptionist know what is going on in your family.
  • If you experienced a separation over the summer, you need to meet with the teacher and other staff as close to the start of the school year as possible. If you have been divorced for a while, you still need to meet with the child’s main teacher shortly after the start of the school year.
  • You don’t need to tell all the sordid details about the family breakup.
  • Explain how you think the divorce is affecting your child. Here are some suggestions of areas you might want to include
    1.  How your child is not sleeping well at night
    2.  He or she is not eating or is eating too much
    3.  Is sad at times and doesn’t seem to have much energy
    4.  Cannot focus on things and forgets things
    5.  Is angry at the world
    6.  Struggles transitioning after visitation
  • Alert the teacher about the living arrangements. Teachers need to know:
    1.  If the child is going to be living in the other home on a regular basis
    2.  If there is shared custody
    3.  Whether the child’s other parent lives out of town/state
  • Discuss which parent to call in case of an emergency or if a problem arises, and who to contact if academic performance suffers or needs attention

For church leaders

  • Encourage the parent to tell the teacher their child is attending DC4K, DivorceCare for Kids, at your church or at a neighboring church. Suggest the parent to explain what DC4K is all about and how having the child in DC4K will benefit the child’s education.
  • If your church runs DC4K, be sure to send along some brochures with the parent so the teachers at the child’s school can become familiar with DC4K and what the child will be learning.
  • Parents who are just experiencing the separation might need some feedback about what their child experiences in church groups and classes. Before the parent meets with the teacher, it might be good to make up a short list of what you are seeing in your groups at church. Push the positive in your comments.

Example: “Latisha has been distracted since her dad moved out. However, when she is staring off into space we gently touch her shoulder or call her name and she brings her attention back to the discussion at hand.”

  • Be cautious because you don’t want to come across as telling a parent or schoolteacher what to do. You only want to alert them to some of the things you are seeing in the church environment that the parent might not be observing. Remember the parent is stressed, overwhelmed and does not see the child within the context of a group of kids.
  • You might offer to go with the parent, or find someone in your church that join the parent in meeting with the child’s teacher. Many times a hurting single parent needs to know they have an advocate who will be there with them.
  • Single parents and their children need your help adjusting to the demands of a new school year.

Church leader, how can you assist the hurting parent in your church get their child started off in the right direction this school year?

If you are divorcing parent, what do you need in order to help your child succeed this school year?


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