Supporting Families of Divorce
Almost one out of two marriages in the United States ends in divorce (Berns, 2015, p. 93). This high rate of divorce potentially places many young children and their parents in need of support. In Week 2, you read about some of the changes and challenges that divorce can bring to families. This week, you will focus on the role of an early childhood professional in helping young children and families who are experiencing separation and divorce.
Action Plan Professional Scenario: Imagine that you are working in an early childhood setting and in the same year, three families are going through divorces. You are committed to supporting each family as much as possible and so decide to research the impact of this experience on infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in order to help all adults involved better understand what the children and families are going through. You also want to help each of the families—and others you will work with—diminish the negative emotional and behavioral effects on young children that divorce can bring. Your initial research underscores the complexity of divorce and family situations, noting that some children may do better following a separation and divorce than children in a household that is rife with conflict. You remind yourself to keep an open mind as you continue research and form your Action Plan.
As you put your Action Plan together, consider: What adults who work with young children need to know in order to understand the needs of children at different ages and stages who are experiencing separation and divorce What ideas and advice from experts can be useful in assisting young children and families dealing with divorce What an early childhood profession can do to help—both directly, by offering information and suggestions, and by referring the family to other community resources and professionals
Follow these steps to create your Action Plan:
1. What You Need to Know: Learning About Effects of Divorce on Children
Review the information on divorce on pages 93-97 of your text. Also click on the links below to read the following articles. As you read, take notes on information that you think is important to share with parents and other significant family adults, including what infants, toddlers, and preschoolers understand about divorce and how they may respond. Effect of Divorce on Children: What Makes a Difference
Children’s Reactions to Divorce—A ges and Stages
http://www.extension.purdue.edu/providerparent/Family-Child%20Relationships/ChildrensReactions.htm The Effects of Divorce on Children
2. Ideas and Advice: Checking Resources
Based on what you have been learning, think concretely about how best to help the parents and family members of an infant, a toddler, and a preschooler. Check your notes from reading the articles above. As needed, skim the articles again, looking for ideas and resources to share with parents and other significant adults. Access the articles below as additional resources. Divorce: A Parents’ Guide for Supporting Children (PDF)
Facts for Families: Children and Divorce (PDF) Providers Talking with Parents about Divorce
(For this article, adapt ideas as appropriate for an early childhood professional working with families in nonprovider roles as well.)
3. Taking Action: Supporting a Family Experiencing Separation and Divorce
With knowledge and ideas in hand, you’re ready to take action to support young children by talking with the significant adults in their lives. Use the information and advice from the articles to make your plan. Think of it as preparing a script for meeting with the parents or other significant family adults. Include the following in your plan: Part I: Supporting an Infant
Explain in your own words: Developmental information about what an infant may feel or understand about a separation and divorce Possible ways that an infant may respond Specific suggestions from experts on how to help an infant through a separation and divorce
Part II: Supporting a Toddler
Explain in your own words: Developmental information about what a toddler may understand about a separation and divorce Possible ways that a toddler may respond Specific suggestions from experts on how to help a toddler through a separation and divorce
Part III: Supporting a Preschooler
Explain in your own words: Developmental information about what a preschooler may understand about a family separation and divorce Possible ways that a preschooler may respond Three specific ideas or activities that the family can do to help a preschooler through a divorce and separation
As you write your plan, remember: Your goal is to increase parents’ awareness of how a child at each age may respond to separation and divorce. Focus on information that you, as an early childhood professional, are qualified to give. Most likely the parents are struggling, too. Be considerate of their feelings in explaining children’s needs. Choose language that you would feel comfortable using—language that is respectful and sensitive—to create a model presentation for talking with adult family members.
Assignment length: 2–3 pages