Written by Steve Cohen, Managing Associate, Family Law
In recent years, the national divorce rate has risen; this has had major implications for schools and teachers – an important setting where children are nurtured and socialized. Schools have the potential to play an important role in safeguarding a child during a high conflict divorce.
Here are five ways teachers and schools can help:
1. Teachers as Ally
Teachers can be positive role models to children in a crisis. A favorite teacher is not merely an instructor for academic skills, but a confidant and positive example. Teachers must be an ally to a child and a protective resource for children experiencing adversity. Teachers should monitor student well-being, observe signs of behavioural change and take action where necessary.
2. Builders of Children
Schools must develop and build children. Teachers must help promote resilience in their students, especially amongst those struggling with adversity. Schools should offer programs and adopt policies to help children in the midst of divorce. The mere perception of a school as a safe and positive space may be protective for the young person at risk.
3. School as resource to parents
Despite home difficulties, schools should support the divorcing parents. Parental involvement in the school community is seen as providing a positive and beneficial effect on divorcing parents who may otherwise become isolated.
4. What can a school do?
When a child is facing adversity, the school must be the child’s bedrock – as friend, confidant, educator and guarantor. Family court proceedings typically take between 1 to 3 years to resolve – which is a substantial period of time. Teachers must remain ever-vigilant in ensuring the student at the centre of the proceedings is well nurtured and kept secure.
5. What shouldn’t a teacher do?
A teacher should not interfere in family court matters, rather remain child focused at all times. Teachers should try and limit the negative impacts of divorce – by teaching the child resilience, stress management and above all letting the child know that they are well loved and cared for.