How Teachers & Schools Can Help Support Children During Their Parents’ Divorce.

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Divorce is stressful for parents and children alike and although reactions will depend on a child’s age, temperament and the circumstances surrounding the split, many children feel sad, frustrated, angry and anxious — and it’s not uncommon for them to become naughty, angry or demotivated at home and at school because of those feelings.

As a former Deputy Head & Class Teacher for over 22 years there are ways that teachers & schools can support children, regardless of their age, during this time of change, by consciously minimising the tension that this situation creates, being patient while everyone adjusts to the new situation, and responding openly and honestly to children’s concerns, worries and questions so that children feel supported & understood during through this difficult time.

What most parents & teachers don’t realise is that it can take up to 18 months to 2 years for people to adjust to any major life change – whether that’s bereavement, redundancy, divorce or living through a pandemic.

At the centre of my work with parents going through separation, divorce or break up, is my passion to help the whole family, and particularly the children, to feel nurtured, supported and heard, and for them not to be damaged or traumatised by the whole experience.

So I help parents explore ways to handle the situation successfully and confidently.

But I also support children & teachers offering advice for schools working together sensitively with families as they navigate the stressful changes.

Here are some of the important things children need to hear from you at this time: for parents

The pandemic is causing spikes in break-ups and divorces.

Divorce rates are increasing around the world, and relationship experts warn the pandemic-induced break-up curve may not have peaked yet. A British law firm recorded a 122% increase in enquiries due to lockdowns & life during a pandemic.

This pattern is happening around the world from China to Sweden.

I have been writing a new training programme:

How Teachers & Schools Can Help Support Children During Their Parents’ Divorce.

For children, their parents’ separation and divorce is a stressful & challenging time.

Children have different experiences and reactions and they naturally bring these strong emotions into their classrooms & school environment.

Children’s social and emotional well-being, and ability to learn, can be affected for many years because divorce is a challenging time for everyone & it may be difficult for parents to provide the support their children need as they deal with their own stress.

Teachers & schools can really make a difference & help children make positive adjustments & cope more positively with the changes they are going through if they have the intention, training & ethos within the school environment to support their pupils.

Primary School teachers see their class of children for most of each day & know each child well. They’re in an ideal position to provide support when needed. But they may not know how to help in these situations.

Secondary School teachers can also provide emotional support by creating opportunities to talk or listen to a student or signpost them to the relevant support that they need. It’s every teacher’s responsibility to support a pupil through a turbulent time – not just the PSHE teacher or school counsellor.

I have written a new school programme that provides some helpful strategies that have proven to be successful for teachers.

Negative impacts of divorce

Much is known about the short term and long term  effects of separation and divorce on children’s social and emotional well-being and learning.

But there is little known about these children’s experiences at school.

There is even less known about how their teachers work with pupils going through separation & divorce.

Related studies have shown having a support network that includes children’s teachers can promote resilience.

Another study found if children talked to their teacher so their teachers were aware of their situation, teachers could then offer support if needed.

Other studies showed children felt secure when the daycare and school environment was friendly, structured and predictable.

While these studies provide some awareness, little is known about teachers and their interactions with these children to promote well-being and learning.

This has led to a comprehensive study by Linda Mahony Senior Lecturer in Education at Charles Sturt University that is very helpful through interviews, focus groups, journalling & observation.

Useful strategies for teachers

The study showed that teachers were concerned with children’s social and emotional well-being. They believed when children felt safe and secure they could learn.

Importantly, the support teachers provided varied depending on the different needs of children and their families & here are the most useful and effective actions teachers can take when supporting a pupil during their parents divorce & separation.

  • developing an understanding of children’s reactions to their parents and divorce by reflecting on their observations and conversations with children
  • developing an understanding of the type and effect of parents’ stress
  • having private conversations with children, asking if they are OK, being a good listener, letting children talk, and providing reassurance
  • arranging one-to-one time with a teacher or professional aide to provide emotional support or to help them settle into the day
  • being available for children and parents to speak to
  • creating a safe, friendly environment where children feel free to talk
  • developing friendships with children and families so they can feel safe and secure to talk to them
  • communicating with parents about how their child is going emotionally, socially and academically at school
  • referring children to the student welfare coordinator or school counsellor when necessary for additional support
  • talking about catastrophic scales to help children put their problems into perspective on a scale from zero to ten where zero is no problem and ten is the worst problem ever
  • being consistent with school routines, rules and expectations
  • making sure the child is included in supportive friendship groups, both in the classroom and playground
  • making activities and communication inclusive – for example, not always saying “tell mum” but instead saying “tell the person who packs your lunch” or “does your homework with you”
  • having flexible expectations with the child’s school work
  • arranging tutoring for the child with the teacher, other parents, peers, and teacher aides
  • getting financial support through the school welfare budget or community organisations for resources, food and to help pay for school excursions and camps
  • providing encouragement for children to make good decisions and to manage their own behaviour.


Teachers can buffer the stress of divorce or separation and help children adjust to their changed family arrangements & are an important part of the jigsaw in supporting children through change.

The strategies for teachers identified in this study by Charles Sturt University can help teachers support children and families through these unsettled times.

I also train teachers in how to use my Positive Profile Posters to help children express their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

The actions teachers take are important in increasing the trust, bond & relationship between children, families and teachers.

As we emerge from living through a pandemic teachers are in an important position as they spend so much time with their pupils & they have a unique insight & relationship with the children they teach.

By having the intention & confidence to work together with families they can help promote resilience and coping skills & can help children to remain hopeful by encouraging them & giving them the mindset, attitude & skills to develop a positive outlook to their lives going forward.

 I am developing a comprehensive programme of strategies & resources to help.

Get in touch if you’d like to me to support your school 

[email protected]



Separation and divorce are traumatic events for families.

The Divorce Journal for Kids is designed to help children express, explore and understand some of the strong emotions that they may be feeling and to help them process the divorce for themselves.

Keeping a Journal is a very simple, but powerful way to support children.

As caring adults, we can help by simply acknowledging & listening to how a child may be feeling, without trying to “fix it”.

This Journal is designed to support open and honest communication and to help children feel heard, understood and supported during a time of great upheaval.

Buy your copies here:


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