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The Child in Separation. Vignettes & Case Studies Charlie Azzopardi. The way children react to their separating parents depends on many variables. Age (Cantrell, 1986; Freeman & Couchman, 1985; Kieffer, 1982; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). Gender Birth Order Temperament

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The Child in Separation


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    1. The Child in Separation Vignettes & Case Studies Charlie Azzopardi

    2. The way children react to their separating parents depends on many variables • Age (Cantrell, 1986; Freeman & Couchman, 1985; Kieffer, 1982; Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). • Gender • Birth Order • Temperament • Quality of Separation • Trans-generational Network • School • Others ?

    3. Early Latency (ages 5-8). Children between the ages of five and eight at the time of their parents' divorce tend to react with great sadness. Some may feel fearful, insecure, helpless, and abandoned by the missing parent. Younger children often express guilt and blame themselves for their parents' divorce.

    4. Late Latency (ages 9-12) Children in late latency at the time of their parents' divorce are distinguished from younger children by their feelings of intense anger. Nine to 12-year-olds may still feel loneliness, loss, shock, surprise, and fear, but anger and possibly the rejection of one parent are the predominant reactions of this age group.

    5. Adolescence (ages 13-18) Adolescents whose parents are divorcing also experience loss, sadness, anger, and pain. A typical adolescent reaction to parental divorce, however, often involves acting-out behaviors. Sexual promiscuity, delinquency, the use of alcohol and drugs, and aggressive behavior have all been identified as adolescent reactions to parental divorce.

    6. IN-SCHOOL REACTIONS In Wallerstein and Kelly's (1980) five-year longitudinal study of 60 families and 131 children of divorce, teachers reported that two-thirds of the children showed changes in school behavior and/or academic performance following the parental separation. Cantrell (1986) concurs that teachers frequently report observing changes in academic achievement, moods, attendance patterns, and behavior of children adjusting to their parents' divorce.

    7. SCHOOL’S ROLE • The development of a School Policy • Parent’s activities • The school is in an excellent position to offer supportive services to children of divorce. • Children spend much time in school, where the continuity and routine can offer a safe environment for interventions. • Counselors, teachers, and other school personnel are available on a daily basis and can provide a link with external professionals involved. • Finally, the number of children in the school provides the possibility for group interventions (e.g. PSHE). • Teacher’s Training

    8. QUADRIPLE SCHOOL COUNSELOR'S ROLE • The school counselor can provide valuable assistance directly through counseling with the children and indirectly through services to school administrators, teachers, and parents. Scherman and Lepak (1986) suggest that counselors not view divorce as a single problem with negative consequences, but focus on changes caused by divorce (e.g., single-parent homes, changes in routines and life stlyes, visitation patterns with relatives) and their positive, negative, or neutral effects on the children.

    9. QUADRIPLE SCHOOL COUNSELOR'S ROLE 2. Working with School Administrators. The 10 major issues facing administrators with regard to children of separation: school territorial rights, parental access to school records, release of the child from school, school visits, medical emergencies, financial responsibility, the child's surname, retention, confidentiality of records, and parental access to school functions. Counselors can consult with school administrators on these policy issues and help them to understand the legal implications of separation for the school.

    10. QUADRIPLE SCHOOL COUNSELOR'S ROLE 3. Working with Teachers. School counselors can help teachers and other school personnel by conducting in-service training on the effects of divorce on children and their classroom behavior. Counselors can also help to sensitize teachers to the transition a child is experiencing and to the implications of that transition. Teachers may need to change their choice of words, or to adapt their curriculum and classroom resource materials to include various family types.

    11. QUADRIPLE SCHOOL COUNSELOR'S ROLE 4. Working with Parents. Counselors can make parents aware of the special needs of their child during the Separation transition. Counselors can also assist parents by referring them to relevant support or therapeutic.

    12. Teachers in Loco Parentis • Teacher as a Secure Base • School as a secure Base – especially if home situation is tense.

    13. Provide opportunities for students to discuss their feelings. • Allow children privacy when needed. • Recommend and encourage the use of age-appropriate resource materials. • Provide a stable environment. • Maintain consistent expectations and routines. • Engage in supportive communication. • Inform parents about child's progress or difficulties. • Encourage parents to be honest, direct, supportive, and firm with their children. Encourage to keep the child as the focus of their decisions • Be aware of language which may be offensive to children of separation. • Plan and label events for parents, rather than specifically for mothers or fathers.

    14. Case Study 1 Name: Johan Age: 12 School: Junior Lyceum Parents: Separated 11 months ago Presenting Problem: School non-compliance, non-attendance, lower performance

    15. A Scenario Four boys aged 14-15 years are caught on video smashing chairs against the wall in a class room. Upon repeated reviewing of the video it is discovered that 2 of the children are going through the separation of their parents. Another’s parents have already separated two years ago.

    16. References • Burns, C.W. and M.R. Brassard. (1982). "A Look at the Single Parent Family: Implications for the School Psychologist." PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS 19(4) 487-494. • Cantrell, R.G. (1986). "Adjustment to Divorce: Three Components to Assist Children." ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GUIDANCE AND COUNSELING 20(3) 163-173. • Dowling, E. and Barnes, J.G. (2000). Working with Children in Separation & Divorce. Palgrave: London. • Drake, E.A. "Helping Children Cope with Divorce: The Role of the School." In CHILDREN OF SEPARATION AND DIVORCE: MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENT, eds. I.R. Stuart and L.E. Abt. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981. • Freeman, R. and B. Couchman. "Coping with Family Change: A Model for Therapeutic Group Counseling with Children and Adolescents." SCHOOL GUIDANCE WORKER 40(5) (1985): 44-50. • Hammond, J.M. "Children of Divorce: Implications for Counselors." THE SCHOOL COUNSELOR 27(1) (1979): 7-13. • Kelly, J.B. and J.S. Wallerstein. "Brief Interventions with Children in Divorcing Families." AMERICAN JOURNAL OF ORTHOPSYCHIATRY 47 (1977): 23-39. • Kieffer, D. "Children Coping with Divorce: School Psychological Management and Treatment." In PSYCHOLOGICAL APPROACHES TO PROBLEMS OF CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS, ed. J. Grimes. Des Moines, IA: Iowa State Department of Public Instruction, 1982. (ED 232 082) • Robson, B.A. "A Developmental Approach to the Treatment of Divorcing Parents.' In THERAPY WITH REMARRIAGE FAMILIES, ed. L. Messinger. Rockville, MD: Aspen Systems, 1982. • Scherman, A. and L. Lepak, Jr. "Children's Perceptions of the Divorce Process." ELEMENTARY SCHOOL GUIDANCE AND COUNSELING 21(1) (1986). (CG 530 996) • Wallerstein, J.S., and J.B. Kelly. SURVIVING THE BREAKUP: HOW CHILDREN AND PARENTS COPE WITH DIVORCE. New York: Basic Books, 1980.