If the divorce occurs at an early age, the adverse effects academically are greater. Some researchers have also suggested that teachers may expect less of children who come from one-parent homes. They may have negative attitudes towards these children and expect less of them. It is dangerous for teachers to stereotype children from one-family homes as poor students.
Children from divorce need the same kind of education as other children do. They need to be in schools where the emphasis is on academics; the principal is active, involved, and a leader; where teachers are positive about all students' ability to learn and have high expectations; where the atmosphere is safe, orderly and disciplined; where the child's progress is regularly discussed with parents; and parents and school agree on educational goals. In this sense, there is no difference in the needs of divorced or one-parent home children, and children from two-parent homes.
Teachers and administrators need to be careful not to develop or express negative attitudes towards children from one-family homes. Sometimes, teachers tend to blame all academic problems on the child's situation at home. There may be a social stigma among the students attached to having only one parent, making the child feel "odd" or "left out." Teachers can help with this by discussions of different kinds of family structure. The most important person at school for a child is the teacher who substitutes for parent. A good relationship can really help the child. During the crisis, or transitional stage of divorce, the teacher can give immediate support. If the teacher has an ongoing positive relationship with the child, he/she will notice any changes in the child's manner or behavior which should be addressed. The teacher can refer the child for professional help if needed.
There are curricular issues as well. Text books and other curricular materials send messages to children. The old Dick and Jane books featured only two-parent traditionally structured families. One-parent households were grossly under-represented. Children should be able to find their own families in stories and books at school so that they don't feel alone and different. The subject of divorce should be covered in stories. Classroom textbooks at this time do not reflect the great numbers of single-parent homes. The school doesn't necessarily need to change all the textbooks. Opportunities for stories and discussions about different kinds of families can help to show respect for non-traditional families. The class can do a special unit on different types of families.
During periods of crisis the school can help the child of divorce:
Be understanding, warm, caring, and patient with the child.
Acknowledge and actively listen to the child's feelings.
Communicate with the child's family, and be available as a source of support for the child's family.
Identify potential learning and behavior problems, and deal with them as soon as possible.
Maintain high expectations for the child, and help validate and build the child's self-esteem.
Monitor changes in the child's family status (Hargreaves, 1991, p. 59).
Education experts agree that school personnel can "offer timely assistance if they are sensitive to children's situations" (Hargreaves, 1991, p. 59). The school can offer warmth, stability, and structure to children who are experiencing the upheaval of a divorce.
Children of Divorce web site. Educational achievement: http://www.divorcereform.org/edu.html.
Children of Divorce web site. Poverty: http://www.divorcereform.org/pov.html.
Children of Divorce web site. Psychological, psychiatric problems and suicide. http://www.divorcereform.org/psy.html.
Ham, B. (2004). The effect of divorce on the academic achievement of high school seniors. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 38, 167-185.
Hargreaves, M.B. (1991). Learning under stress: Children of single parents and the schools. Metuchen, NJ: Women's Action Alliance and the Scarecrow Press.
Hughes, R. (2005). Divorce and children: An interview with Robert Hughes, Jr., Ph.D.: http://www.athealth.com/consumer/disorders/childrendivorce.html.
Raley, R.K. (1991). The effects of family composition on educational attainment. Madison: Wisconsin University, Center for Demography and Ecology.
Sun, Y. And Li, Y. (2002). Children's well-being during parents' marital disruption process: A pooled time-series analysis. Journal of Marriage & Family, 64 (2), 472-482.
Tors, B. (1995). A preliminary investigation of factors affecting educational attainment of children of divorce. ERIC, ED391121, document.
Work and Family web site: The economic consequences of divorce.…