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Syndicated column from The Parent Institute

[OCT. 12, 2005]  Q: We are having a difficult time this summer. My husband and I are going through an unpleasant divorce. This is a bad situation in itself, but my biggest concern is the effect it is having on our son. He will be living with me, and I worry about the upcoming school year and how this will affect his performance.

A: You have a valid concern. After a divorce, children can become sad and withdrawn. Their schoolwork often suffers. They sometimes daydream instead of studying. Their grades and conduct can worsen. There are ways you can help your son cope with this significant change in his life. For example:
  • Set routines. Your family life has changed dramatically, and your son needs some stability. If possible, have a set time for dinner, homework and bedtime. If you are working, you have an especially challenging situation. Expect your son to help out with chores. Setting and sticking to routines will take hard work, but this is essential in helping your son cope.

  • Help your son see that change can be positive. Start a new family tradition. Learn a new activity together. Focus on the positive aspects of change. Your child will learn that change can mean growth.

  • Talk with your son every day. As simple and obvious as that seems, studies show that good communication -- routine talking, and listening -- can give you the opportunity to help your son deal with problems and concerns.

  • Find out what is happening at school each day. Take a look at homework papers. Read and return all papers sent home from the school.

  • Work with your son's school. Be sure to let the school know when your marital status changes. State who has legal custody. Let them know of any changes in address, phone number or job. Then they will know where to reach you. Usually, schools will be happy to work with both parents. Give the school addresses and phone numbers for both parents. And when school starts, be sure your son's teacher understands the family situation.

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  • Find out what resources are available to you through your school system and your community, especially if you will be solely responsible for your child. You may find a special support group for single parents where you can meet others in your same situation.

  • Have a plan for your child on days when either you or your child is ill. Your school system may have a list of child-care providers who could help you in such a situation.

  • Try to keep his father involved as much as possible. A child who continues to see both parents adjusts more easily. You may be angry or hurt by your divorce, but you have to be the grown-up in this situation.

Remember, if you need help, ask for it! You can start with your son's school. If they don't have the resources you need, they can point you in the right direction.

[The Parent Institute]

For more information about helping children learn or to submit your own question, go to All questions will receive a prompt answer by e-mail.

Copyright 2005, The Parent Institute.

"Ask the Learning Advisor -- Ideas for Raising Successful Children" is a free, syndicated column from the Parent Institute.

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