School Daze – A child’s perspective on going back to school after a divorce
A child’s perspective on going back to school after a divorce – Part One
Although the ratios are different depending on the child, the first day of school usually holds a mix of excitement and dread. Your child will be catching up with old friends, making new ones; familiarizing herself with a new teacher (or teachers), with different classrooms, schedules, and subject matter. Finding his place on the playground or in the cafeteria can be fraught with anxiety. How much more difficult it is to navigate a new landscape when a child’s internal world has been fractured by divorce.
No matter how amicable, or necessary or even desirable for your child’s well-being, a divorce rocks her world. What will he tell his friends? Her teacher?
Who will come to soccer games, class plays, parent-teacher conferences? Will they never show up together or argue if they do? Younger children may feel guilt or shame and be reluctant to confide in friends. Older children may affect a nonchalance that belies the turmoil they feel and act as if it’s no big deal.
Children may feel embarrassed or fear crying if they talk about it. Without the ability to express his true feelings at school, where he spends so much of his time, your child’s health, sense of self and schoolwork may suffer.
So help your child work out how to talk to their friends about your divorce. Rehearse conversations. According to author Rosalind Sedacca, “ . . . ask questions and discuss emotions with the kids. ‘Are you nervous about seeing your old friends? Are you afraid to tell them about Mom and Dad getting a divorce? Do you think they will care? What will you say to the coach? How did you feel when Johnny asked if your Dad’s moved out of the house?’ ” *
Robert Emery, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and a divorce mediation expert, suggests something like this: “You know what really sucks? My parents are getting divorced. . . . Thanks for listening, I really need a friend right now.”
Let them know that you rely on your friends for support and encouragement and that they can, too.
How Do I Tell the Kids about the Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide to Preparing Your Children — with Love! By Rosalind Sedacca
School Daze: A four-part series addressing the challenges kids face going back to school after their parents separate or divorce.
Next: Double Jeopardy: New Neighborhood, New School
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