Often the first adult in a child’s life who talks with the child honestly about the divorce of the child’s parents is not either of the parents. It’s the child’s school teacher. I often visit with teachers in elementary school, and their most consistent complaint is about divorcing parents who don’t communicate honestly with their children or their children’s teachers about their divorce.
The result is that the teacher often finds out about divorce from the acting out behavior of the child. Younger children in particular have trouble articulating why they’re so stressed. Older children are more able to articulate their feelings but more likely simply to withdraw.
Here’s an article about one of the responses schools are mounting to this challenge, this one from the New York Journal News. It describes the feelings of isolation and confusion that students often experience when their parents divorce. It says that some schools are implementing weekly after-school support groups for children whose parents are divorced.
The article quotes one of the students: “I didn’t really speak to anyone,” [the student] said. “I didn’t want to upset anyone in my family. And none of my friends’ parents were divorced, so I didn’t think they could understand.” Now, however, with the opportunity to meet after school with others like herself, she feels better: “I don’t get to talk about it a lot at home. It’s just a really nice opportunity to talk about my family. To get advice, to give advice.”