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What Divorce does to kids

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HAYLEY W0034509

on 13 March 2014

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Transcript of What Divorce does to kids

Various Perspectives


Student Name:
Student Number:
Date Submitted: 22 January 2014
Course Examiner: Leisa Holzheimer
Word Count: 2603
Various Perspectives
Separation and divorce may affect a child’s development depending on the stage of development they are at: early childhood, middle childhood or adolescence. Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological model of development, is a complete account of contextual influences on children’s development (Berk, 2012) and demonstrates the interactions between biology, nature, and the environment, nurture (Sigelman & Rider, 2009). When parents separate or divorce, this creates distress and instability for the children involved. The family environment has an important influence on a child’s development with the four subsystems of home (including neighbourhood); day care, school and peer groups (Sigelman & Rider, 2009).

According to Bronfenbrenner, the developing child or person is encircled by a series of environmental systems that influence their development. These systems are called the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem and the concept of the chronosystem (as indicated in figure 1 from the previous slide). The microsystem is the environment closest to the child or individual and is where the person is influenced the most by others such as their family: mother, father, siblings, day care, grandparents, and other family members. The second system closest to the individual is the mesosystem, and consists of interrelationships, and links between two or more microsystems. For example, an argument in the family (one microsystem) could lead to the child withdrawing from school, staff or other children (second microsystem) (Sigelman & Rider, 2009). Another example could be how parental involvement in school and the extent of academic learning at home influences a child’s academic success (Berk, 2012). The third stage, the exosystem contains links between social settings that the child does not have direct experiences with, however, affect children’s experiences, such as parents’ workplace, social networks, and the local government: such as elections or national school policies (Berk, 2012). The fourth system is the macrosystem, which encompasses all social and cultural values, laws and customs. An example is how cultural values are passed on to children through shared understandings, beliefs and practices, and teaching children the way of life and what they need to function in society (Sigelman & Rider, 2009). In addition to the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem is the chronosystem, where changes in people and their environments occur over a period and develop in particular sequences or patterns (Sigelman & Rider, 2009). Societal changes affect people’s lives, marital conflict and separation or divorce change children’s lives and family relationships (Sigelman & Rider, 2009)
Reflection on Biases, Assumptions, Pre-understandings and Implications for Practice

Through previous professional experiences, I learnt that divorce and separation was quite a common and complex process, especially when it involves children. My initial thoughts were that the best scenario was if parents had joint 50/50 custody, however, due to the high level of conflict between separated and divorced parents, I have come to realise that this is not always the ideal situation. Through observations and discussions on the effects of divorce and separation, I can appreciate the wide variety of effects it has on families: emotionally, socially and physically.
Teachers who work with children and their families on a day-to-day basis are accountable for ensuring the health and wellbeing of their students and to report any substantial risk of harm or harm occurring in the form of emotional and verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence. All of which have negative and damaging effects on children and families. In Queensland, the code of ethics for teachers indicates that all teachers must demonstrate a responsibility by giving priority to the education and welfare of all students in their care (Queensland College of Teachers, n.d.). In ensuring the health and well-being of their students, teachers are to ensure their students are able to access any assistance they may need in relation to dealing with their parents separation or divorce.
It is important for teachers to be aware of the extent of difficulties that could arise should a child’s family in his or her class decide to separate or divorce, and the teacher needs to be armed with a variety of ways to assist these children. There is a collection of resources and services available to assist families and I have provided a starting point for professionals and families by including some on the Resources page.

It is important for teachers to be knowledgeable in relation to conflict and custodial issues due to separation and divorce, as they are highly likely to encounter children and families that are going through these types of experiences. Most families who go through separation or divorce, experience it as a genuine crisis and a period of disruption that often lasts from one to two years (Amato, 2000, Hetherington, 2006 & Hetherington & Kelly, 2002, as cited in Sigelman & Rider, 2009). Children going through a divorce suffer too and are often more angry, fearful, depressed, whiny, dependent, disobedient and disrespectful (Sigelman & Rider, 2009). The more stress and arguments between separating parents, the harder and longer it takes for children to adjust (Berk, 2012).

Children and parents need to have access to appropriate support such as counselling and community services and education can be provided by the child and family practitioner on the effects of separation and divorce upon children, emotionally and socially. Family Dispute Resolution is more cost-effective than going to the Family Court and is recommended for families to make arrangements for the care of their children (e.g. schooling, time spent with each parent).

As a teacher, confidentiality and impartiality is vital and it is essential to use reflective listening to understand and really hear their concerns and to provide non-judgemental responses to children and family members (Berk, 2010; Bolton, 1987, Sigelman, Rider & De George-Walker, 2012).
What Separation & Divorce does to kids...
What Divorce does to kids
Ongoing professional learning
Separation and divorce is an important issue that is experienced by many families all over the world. Experiences as a child can affect future development and an experience such as parental separation or divorce, could influence a child’s wellbeing psychologically (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011).

In an education context, early childhood (birth to age eight) is a critical time for children to learn and develop. There is supporting evidence that the early years is a significant stage for development and that it is vital for a child’s present and future development, health, and wellbeing (Department of Education, Employment and Workforce Relations, 2009). The Office of Early Childhood Education and Child Care [OECECC] also recognises the importance of the first five years of a child’s life as being the most critical period for brain development (Australian Government, n.d.).

McIntosh (2010) highlights how parental separation or divorce is a difficult adjustment for children in terms of multiple and complex changes, which can cause psychological, social, and physical health issues, as well as reduce academic performance levels. The developmental impacts on children range from infants reacting to parents’ distress and conflict, disruption to attachment and care giving patterns, withdrawing, becoming 'clingy', acting younger than they are (baby talk, toileting issues), having nightmares, become rebellious or difficult to handle or aggressive (McIntosh, 2010; Commonwealth of Australia, 2010). Children can react very differently to separation or divorce. The way they react depends on a number of things, but two important factors are the age of the child and the degree of conflict and animosity between the parents.

Thousands of children experience the stress of divorce each year and every divorce has an effect on the children involved (New, 2011).

The video's attached look at divorce and separation from various perspectives.
Children of divorce fall behind peers in math, social skills,
talks about how children experiencing the stress of a divorce often experience emotional and/or academic setbacks - http://www.news.wisc.edu/19448

What divorce really does to children - in their own shattering words: If you're divorced, or thinking about it, their testimony will shake you to the core-
is a documentary revealing how disintegrating marriages affect children. - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2411830/What-divorce-really-does-children--shattering-words-If-youre-divorced-thinking-testimony-shake-core.html

What Divorce Does To The Kids
is a blog talks about betrayal, lies and how children look up to their parents as role models and how they are the central characters right up on the main stage- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sally-fay/what-divorce-does-to-kids_b_877908.html
The relevance of this issue is that educators need to be aware and have knowledge about separation and divorce in order to assist children and the families who they are working with. When parents separate or divorce, its impact on the children involved can affect their well-being. This issue is relevant in the child and family sector as it is common for parents to experience conflict during a separation, even as divorced parents, particularly in regards to child custody and the percentage of care. Within the field of family dispute resolution, the various effects upon children’s emotional and social well-being are discussed with parents, with a focus on a child-centred approach addressing the needs of children, while utilising dispute resolution to enable parents to come to an agreement regarding the care of children. Booth (2000) suggests that there is ample evidence that parental divorce can have detrimental effects on school-age children. Children from divorced families have more behaviour and social problems, more psychological distress, and poorer academic achievement.
Click on the following links to read the full stories:
Tamara Afifi is a Professor in the Department of Communication. This video talks about coping in families with an emphasis on post-divorce families when she examined her research program.
The following video features parents talking about how separation and divorce effects them and their children and the importance of co-parenting. It also features strategies to ensure that children feel secure and loved and emphasises that parents, separated or together, need to focus on the well-being of their children.
The above documentary “Torn Apart” offers a personal insight into the various effects of separation and divorce as it examines the problems that children face as a result of separation or divorce occurring.
Throughout this course and by completing this assignment, I have learnt that there are many different effects separation and divorce can have on children and their families, and that aspects of their family life affect how children interact with others (Berk, 2012). The problem that this causes to families and educators is that sometimes children can become withdrawn or act out when they are experiencing extensive changes such as family separation or divorce and this can affect their behaviour and their schooling, academically and socially (Berk, 2012).

Before starting this assignment, I never really considered how important it was for an educator to know and understand the effects of separation and divorce on children. Not because I didn’t think it affected them but because I didn’t think it would be an issue for a teacher. However after researching some of the effects, it is important for teachers to know how to deal with students going through this situation and to be able to assist them in overcoming these changes, in a positive way.

As a pre-service educator there is, still so much I need to learn and I hope that once I am placed in this type of situation my ability to address these problems will increase to become second nature. There are many things that I regularly consider from a personal perspective when thinking about this issue. Firstly, is that how will working with children and families involved in a separation or divorce situation influence me as a person during my teaching career and will I have the knowledge and ability to assist these children and their families should I need to. Will I be able to interact as a mediator for both parents when or if there is a conflict between them at the school and will I have the capacity to act on instincts to ensure a safe and supportive classroom environment. As a teachers I have a duty of care to protect all students in my classroom, therefore I need to learn how to address these issues and if feel that I do not have the ability or knowledge I need to seek guidance from a senior teachers or administration staff. Learning is a gradual process but one that I am ready for.

What I have learnt while completing this assignment is that teachers need to be informed about the effects of separation and divorce on children and utilise the support of the school community and families for any information or help. Without supporting children and families going through these situations, it can lead to other issues for the child such as low academic results, social problems, emotional and behavioural issues and aggression. Aggressive children can turn to bullying others and it is important to treat aggressive behaviour before it becomes well practiced and difficult to change (Berk, 2012).
Relevant and supportive information to help both parents and teachers address the issues pertaining to separation and divorce is important. The resources used need to be succulent and informative when helping students or parents. The following resources are suited for all perspectives and can be utilised for teachers, children and their parents.


The Child and Youth Health web site is part of the Women's and Children's Health Network, that has seen doctors, nurses, social workers and other health professionals working with parents to help children "start healthy and stay healthy" since 1909. Five websites have been established to suit both children and their parents. They range from a pregnancy page to kids’ only page, which is for six to 12 year olds, a teen health page for 12-17 year olds, a young adult health for 18-25 year olds and a parenting and child health page, suited for parents.

Over 500 children were surveyed to find out what topics they would like there to be on the kids’ health site and all the topics have been trialled by them. There are a variety of different topics such as your family, your health and your feelings, which help children to cope through different situations. There are games and fun activities for them to play and read which aims to assist them with understanding what they are going through.
There are varieties of different organisations linked to the website that also offer great resources. The websites are as follows:

• Kid’s only

• Teens only

• Young adults

• Parenting and child health

Chat first is a child-centred website for children and teens whose parents have separated or divorced. The information provided on this website is based on research and will directly assist children and young people to understand and cope with the changes involved in separation or divorce. The parents' section aims to assist parents and/or caregivers to understand and support their children through the family transition and beyond. There is lots of information on there about what happens when parents separate and live in separate places, and it offers tips to help children cope with the changes. As the website explains that, all families are different and experience different situations; however, this website offers sections for children to find more help if they need it. There is also information on this web site for parents so they can understand more about what their children are feeling and experiencing and how best to help. There are three different sections to choose from offered on this website: kids, teens or parents, depending on who is seeking the information. The kids’ website offers plenty of information on a range of different topics such as family separation, after separation, weird words, feelings, scary stuff, legal stuff, children’s rights and school, and offers a range of activities to do.

The main website can be found at http://www.chatfirst.com.au/index.php


This website is an Australian Government initiative aimed at helping families and children through separation and divorce. Family Relationships Online provides all families with access to information about family relationship issues, ranging from building better relationships to dispute resolution. It also allows families to find out about a variety of services that can assist them, including appropriate arrangements for children after separation or divorce.
The website, which can also be downloaded as a PDF booklet, discusses what happens to children during these times and how they can behave or act depending on their age. It also discusses ways that parents can make things more complicated and difficult for their children and offers ways to help their children instead. There are suggestions about making arrangements for children, the courts view on parenting agreements and things to avoid doing. There is also a section at the end with a list of books for children dealing with separation and divorce.



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