The Challenge of Divorce

Millions of kids around the world have to deal with the separation of their parents, but does it affect their academics?

Camilla S. & Kaitlyn M.

Millions of kids around the world have to deal with the separation of their parents, but does it affect their academics?

Emily L. and Layla G.

For 7th-grader Chloe D., school is a constant struggle. When her parents divorced, the hassle of packing her belongings every other week often resulted in her forgetting her day-to-day materials. Few school staff succeed in understanding the effects of the scenario on a student.

According to  Owenby Law, Chloe is one of the 50% of all children in the United States who witness the end of a parent’s marriage. At the age of four, her parents separated because of ongoing conflict.

“I remember crying in my closet because of how [they] woke me up,” Chloe said. 

Her elementary school years were filled with moving from house to house, back and forth, throughout the week. Her circumstances changed for the better when Chloe started living with her mom on weekdays and her dad on the weekends. 

“[My schedule] is weird. One week, I’m with my mom and then on the weekend, I’m with my dad. But, it’s like every two weekends,” she said.

With an inconsistent living schedule, she has found it hard to focus in class and the constant stress of her parents’ breakup still looms over her. 

“It is kind of hard to focus because of the things that go on. I don’t get to see my dad, so it’s hard because it affects my emotions, which [in turn] affects me in class,” Chloe said.  

Chloe’s education has been interrupted by the separation, which continues to affect her focus and emotions. 

According to 7th-grade teacher, Mrs. Merry, the effects of a divorce vary depending on the student and the level of communication between the parents. Nevertheless, everyone has different situations. 

“I think it’s based on how well the parents get along to co-parent the child and communicate about school. That’s really critical, as well as having the same goals for their children in school. If students are living in separate households and bouncing back and forth, they [need] to have a tremendous amount of communication between the parents so the child doesn’t fall between the gaps,” said Mrs. Merry.

Communication and cordial interaction among parents is essential for a student to succeed to the best of their abilities. While it may be asking a lot in light of the breakdown of a marriage, it’s critical for the mental health of the child.  

“If the family does some healthy planning and makes sure the back and forth exchange between mom and dad is planned out well, it benefits the student. Again, there are those circumstances that are like a power struggle where a child is put in the middle of something like that, [which] is where it gets [uncomfortable] for the student,” said Ms. Gains, Day Creek’s school counselor.

Students who show signs of distress may need to seek guidance from a teacher who can point them in the right direction. Teachers have the ability to establish connections to address some of those struggles at home. 

“I think it’s very important to establish relationships with your students so that they trust you and can talk to you. Then, you can help guide them in the right direction whether that is seeing a school counselor or communicating with their parents,” said Mrs. Merry.  

Not all divorces end negatively. Some end on good terms with friendship intact and positive communication in place, which prevents children from falling through the cracks. If students are getting the help and communication required, things have a higher likelihood of working out. If not, circumstances can get ugly.

“Their mind isn’t on school. It’s not their number one priority. What is happening at home is. When my parents were going through [a] divorce, my mom really struggled financially. When I turned 15 ½, I got a job, and gave her my paycheck every month to help keep the house. Some [kids] are taking care of younger siblings because they don’t have two parents in the house to help. There’s just a lot of stuff outside of school that makes it difficult to focus. Sometimes there’s guilt and sometimes there’s shame. Kids feel like it’s their fault,” said Mrs. Merry.

These circumstances make it extremely hard for a middle school student to focus on studying and school work. Turmoil at home may force kids to grow up quickly, creating a whole new set of concerns. It is especially difficult for kids who are torn between parents or forced to choose homes.

“No one wants to pick sides of two people who you love most in the world,” said Mrs. Merry.