Supporting the children of divorce

Clayton Miller

Clayton Miller is a founding member partner of KMJ Solicitors — a highly sought after divorce solicitors in London. Legal 500 family law describe Clayton as being especially able to “assimilate and master the details of complex financial cases and keep on top of them”. Miller has over fifteen years of experience as a family law specialist, including divorce and separation, as well as offshore trusts, prenuptial agreements and cohabitation law. For more information, please contact [email protected]

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If you’re an educator, you will know the difficulties that can come with having a child in your class who is going through, or has just gone through, a divorce. They can be moody, irrational, angry and generally act out.

While it might be tempting to fight fire with fire and become frustrated at their disruption to your class, there are so many ways you can help them through this difficult time. Whether you’ve known the child in your class for a while, or whether they’ve just been transferred into your class as a result of their parents’ divorce, it’s important that you inform yourself about the feelings they may be experiencing.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ way that they should react, so simply taking the time to listen to them and gain their trust can do the world of good. Rather than assuming they must be sad, angry, or confused, give them a safe space where they can vent and come to you with questions as an impartial third party.

As a divorce solicitor in London who, more often than not, is responsible “It’s important that you inform yourself about the feelings pupils may be experiencing.”for facilitating child care arrangements, I’m only too aware of how important a child’s school is for their emotional development. Thanks to the modern, busy lifestyles, teachers probably spend more time with the children than their parents do. If you’re wondering how to help the child in your class transition from being part of a two-parent home to a split one, here’s my professional advice.

Keep Yourself Neutral by Not Favouring One Parent

Unless it’s clearly a case of domestic violence or abuse, it’s important to stay neutral when it comes to a child’s divorcing parents. No matter what you hear from the child, it’s important to remember that whatever mummy/daddy has said, this could be parental alienation syndrome, where the one badmouths the other to the child, rather than genuine bad parenting.

Part of staying neutral is making sure that you don’t choose to favour one parent over the other, which is more often than not the mother. Thousands of fathers in the UK are eliminated from their children’s lives every year. Even an act as simple as making sure you send reports to both parents can help keep them in the loop. Make sure you talk to both parents about what they want. Otherwise, you too could fall victim to the same feelings causing parental alienation of one parent.

Ensure Your School is Sensitive to Divorce

We have a bad habit of assuming that the nuclear family of two happily married parents is commonplace. In reality, one in three children will now experience their parents divorce before they’re 16. Setting assignments that highlight the ‘normal’ family unit, or asking them to write about their home lives, can often trigger unhappiness in children who have separated or divorcing parents.

Likewise, calling the family home to talk to ‘Mr and Mrs X’, or sending letters home that ask to talk to both parents, can cause awkwardness and bad feelings. As highlighted in this article, it’s important to always be considerate that, in every class, there will be at least one family who are separated and have co-parenting issues, be it finances, location or communication.

Encourage talk about diversity of families and make sure letters sent home by the school about projects, classwork and extra-curricular activities have an option that’s mindful of separated families. If this isn’t already a policy at your school, take the initiative to initiate it.

Be There to Listen When the Child Needs You

Outside their immediate family, as a child’s teacher, you are the most important adult figure in your student’s life. You have a duty of care to them. This means that being a “Being a trustworthy ear is vital in supporting pupils through the break-up of their family.”trustworthy ear is vital in supporting them through the break-up of their family. Unless the child is physically in danger, it’s important that your student trusts what they’re telling you is in confidence. Building trust and making sure you’re available outside class hours, whether by being willing to stay after class or being in your classroom at lunch breaks, can encourage the student to open up and share their concerns to you.

What you give to them in time, you’ll get back a thousandfold by a better classroom environment. With the rest of their lives in turmoil, providing the consistency and stability they need may not make that much difference to you in your day, but it could quite literally change the entire path their life takes.

Just as their parents have their family law firm divorce lawyers to consult, children need a trusted ear, too. While a counsellor is also a good idea if they’re really struggling, they have the pre-existing relationship with you, which will make them more likely to open up. It also gives you the opportunity to understand and appropriately respond to their behaviour in class.

As an educator, you’re in a crucial position to help a child through this exceptionally difficult time in their life. As a neutral third party, you can be the rock of communication between all parties involved and help with family transitions. If you’re unsure what your school’s response to divorce is, ask today and start facilitating better responses and communication between teachers, parents and children.

How does your school address divorce? Let us know below.

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