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Transcript of Divorce
What is Divorce?
Divorce In Canada
Stages of Divorce & Adolescent Development
Immediate Crisis Stage:
Divorce is the legal dissolution of marriage, or the final termination of a marital union, when the formerly married couple becomes two separate unities (HRSDC, 2011).
By: Sonia Massari
Maslow’s Needs of Hierarchy and Divorce
For many adolescents, these needs may be more easily met when there are two parents working together to provide and support for a child. As such, divorce can have an influence on the physiological needs of an adolescent. Divorce can limit families and children from eating healthy foods, from actively exercising, and may result in families living in under-developed communities where adolescents are at risk.
If the psychological needs are not fulfilled by an adolescent, then safety issues may arise. For many adolescents who experience divorce their heath may be at risk, they may experience forms of abuse, financial instability at home, or lack essential resources.
Building on safety needs, Maslow explains that love and belonging are also essential elements for individual needs. However, for divorce adolescents, love and belonging can become absent as parents separate and the sense of love and intimacy that the child once new between their parents is quickly shattered. The divorce also reveals feelings of fear, hostility, distress, and sadness for an adolescent, which can result in replacing the feelings of love and belonging that a family life should provide.
If love and belonging are not fulfilled then the child lacks the ability to satisfy their own esteem and self-worth. For adolescents experiencing divorce, they may feel self-conscious, lose respect for others, and feel unconfident and unsuccessful in themselves and others.
As a result, many of the adolescents that deal with divorce may have a difficult time reaching the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is self-actualization, where an individual can demonstrate their full potential, and become everything one is capable of being.
Maslow's Needs of Hierarchy
Short-Term Aftermath Stage:
During the short-term aftermath stage, adolescences struggle with the irrevocable fact that their parents are going to be divorced (Kalter 1990, p.323).
Conflict, financial support, and hostility between parents continue to be common and serious stress for children during this stage.
Though parents may live in different homes, adolescents often are drafted by their parents to participate in this conflict as allies, pawns, or go-betweens (Kalter 1990, p.13).
Also some children may not have the opportunity to see one parent as frequently as they see the other, or they may begin dealing with the reality of parental dating.
As a result of the hostilities and changes occurring in the home, it is natural during this stage for teenagers to gravitate more and more toward their peers (Reynolds 2011, p.148). However, although some teens may confined in their peers to help cheer them up or vent out frustrations, other teens hide the breakup and its stressor from their friends as they worry about what their peers may think of them (Reynolds 2011, p.148). As a result, this has an overall influence on the social development of the adolescent.
Stage 1: Stressors
One stress adolescents have, is that they begin to deal with the worry of losing the stability, support, and protection provided by their sense of family structure (Kalter 1990, p.311)
A second stress for adolescents is the rapid shift in their perception and feelings about their parents, as they can begin to perceive their parents in extremely negative ways.
A third stress is that emotionally adolescents begin to think that the separation is proof that it is there fault, or that their parents do not love or want them (Kalter 1990, p.312).
How Teachers Can Help Adolescent Students Experiencing Divorce
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model and Divorce
The family makes up a large part of the microsystem of a child.
If a child witnesses his parent’s hostility towards each other, and is surrounded by a family that reflects feelings of depression, estrangement, and anger, the child begins to develop and build on those immediate surrounding influences.
In a mesosystem the family extends to all aspects of the adolescent’s development, including language, nutrition, security, health, and beliefs (Frost, 1989).
An adolescent who is neglected or surrounded by the distresses and interactions of divorce can result in experiencing difficulties in interacting and developing at school, with friends, and with other microystems (Frost, 1989).
The exosystem also demonstrates how adolescents who are part of divorce often witness parental hostilities, sadness, anger, depression, and distress, which can indirectly influence the development of the child.
If the child is accustomed to a culture of divorce, which builds on the macrosystem, then the divorced culture influences the child’s life.
The chronosystem, which refers to patterning of transitions over an individual’s life, is also reflected through divorce, as it can be a transition. The different stages of divorce demonstrates how the negative effects of divorce on adolescents often rises in the first year after the divorce and becomes more stable over time. These transitions can negatively influence the development of the adolescent in profound ways.
Initially adolescents are genuinely shocked when they learn that their parents are separating (Kalter 1990, p.310). Even though, most adolescents may be aware of ongoing disagreement between their parents, they still have a hard time understanding how the parents they have lived with all their lives, will get divorced.
This initial shock slowly turns into surprise, quickly followed by anger, dismay, sadness, and disappointment in their parents for not being able to keep the family together (Kalter 1990, p.310).
Emotionally, the immediate crisis stage is difficult for adolescent children to go through, since they rarely understand exactly why they are so angry, sad, or critical of their parents (Kalter 1990, p.311).
These children begin to have feelings that are so strong, fueled by the surging impulses of adolescence, that they experience the emotions in scattered yet overwhelming ways.
Sometimes the initial emotional feelings the child may have about the failure of their parent’s relationship may also be personal, as if they are the only ones in the world ever to experience these feelings ( Wallerstein & Blakeslee 2003, p.101).
They begin to think of themselves first, wondering questions like: does this mean that my future relationships are going to fail? Does this predict my fate? Will I fail to hold a man like my mom? These thoughts can have a developmental impact on an adolescent’s moral and social understanding of love and relationships.
They also may begin to see their family structure change and grow, as parents remarry, date, or move on with their lives.
These changes to the family structure may be hard for many adolescents to deal with. As a result, they may react in ways that can put the adolescent in positions of serious risk that potentially have far-reaching consequences (Kalter 1990, p.310).
In addition, having two homes can be challenging for the adolescent child to deal and cope with. Different rules and standards may be put in place in different households, which can challenge the adolescent’s developmental progress.
During this stage, adolescents may still deal with the stress of their parent’s hostilities towards each other, as well as the financial distress of a single-parent household.
Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Model
What teachers can do!
Providing a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive classroom, encourages students to feel comfortable and safe.
As a teacher it is important to build a relationship not only with the students but also with the parents. The hope is that both parents will have a discussion with the teacher about the changes that may be occurring at home. By doing this the teacher and the parents can work together to build a plan that puts the needs of the child first.
Additionally, knowing that a child is going through a divorce, and having that conversation with the parents, can help the teacher be proactive in observing any behavioural concerns from the student. Such behavioural concerns may be aggression, sadness, depression, anti-social behaviour, poor grades, low self-esteem, extreme shyness, and so on.
If the behavioural issues become more dominant having a discussion with parents or the school psychologist or a child and youth councilor may be necessary.
It is important to remember that all of us come from different backgrounds, histories, cultures, and families. In today’s communities, it is extremely rare to find two families exactly the same. As such, no matter what the family difference are, as teachers it is important to embrace diversity in the classroom, while ensuring that each child feels a sense of belonging, connectedness, and safety, as they enter the classroom each day.
Fitz, Abby. (2010). Helping Children Through Divorce. July 18, 2013, from https://wiki.uww.edu/other/childdevresource/images/7/74/Divorce_Newsletter.pdf.
Frost, David. (1989). Family. In PT3. Retrieved July 18 2013, from http://www.cms-kids.com/providers/early_steps/training/documents/bronfenbrenners_ecological.pdf
HRSDC (2011). Indicators of Well-Being in Canada. In Human Resources and Skill Development Canada. Retrieved July 18 2013, from http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=76
Hume Karen, (2008). Start Where They Are: Differentiating for Success with the Young Adolescent. Toronto, Canada: Pearson Professional Learning.
Kalter, Neil (1990). Growing up with Divorce: Helping Your Child Avoid Immediate and Later Emotional Problems. New York, NY: Free Press.
Ministry of Education (2012). Safe and Accepting Schools. Retrieved July 18, 2013, from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/teachers/safeschools.html
Reynolds, Rene (2011). Parenting through Divorce: Helping Your Children Thrive During and After the Split. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing Inc.
Stats Canada. (2012). Divorce and Separation. In Statistics Canada. Retrieved July 18 2013, from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/famil01-eng.htm
TM Schools. Turning Points: Transforming Middle Schools. At The Turning Point: The Young Adolescent Learner. Retrieved July 18 2013, from http://www.turningpts.org/pdf/YALGuide2.pdf
Walllerstein, Judith & Sandra Blakeslee (2003). What About the Kids? Raining Your Children Before, During and After Divorce. New York, NY: Hyperion Books.
As a teacher, it is also important to be informative and aware of various community agencies that can help families who are struggling through divorce. Some community agencies and websites that parents and adolescents can reach out too are:
Halton Children’s Aid Society: http://www.oacas.org/
Big Brother Big Sister of Halton: http://www.bbbshalton.ca/en/Home/default.aspx
Divorce Care for Kids: http://www.dc4k.org/
Rainbows organization: http://www.rainbows.ca
Canada’s Public Health Agency: Because Life Goes on… http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/mh-sm/divorce/
Strategies to Help Adolescent Students Experiencing Divorce
In order to create a safe and welcoming learning community, there are various strategies teachers can implement in the classroom to help adolescents who are experiencing divorce:
Teachers can maintain and create a classroom that builds on inclusiveness and respect for nontraditional families.
They can provide readings and research materials that allow students to explore and acquire information about divorce.
They can continue to maintain a normal classroom structure and follow daily school routines.
Communicating and forming a professional and comforting relationship with the adolescent, allowing them to feel safe to talk about feelings of distress is also important.
Teachers also need to be observant of behavioural changes, and provide supportive information for students and parents to seek counseling or help build a positive parent-child relationship, by contacting community agencies or child and youth councilors if needed.
A teacher needs to be aware of the three stages that a child may be going through during a divorce, while recognizing that a divorce is not a simple or short life process (Fitz, 2010).
“Learning simply does not happen unless and until students feel emotionally safe” (Hume 2008, p.92).
“A safe, inclusive and accepting school environment is a necessary condition for student success. Students cannot be expected to reach their potential in an environment where they feel insecure and intimidated. We are committed to providing all students with the supports they need to learn, grow and achieve” (Ministry of Education, 2012).
Teens Dealing with Divorce