Talking with parents about divorce can be a delicate matter for a childcare provider. At the same time, it is important for you and the parents to have open communication about this topic, if possible. Working together, you and the parents can focus on the child’s needs. You also can work together to help the children find coping skills that will work for them. Such open communication will help you figure out what your role should be with the child and with the custodial and the noncustodial parent. It also is important for you to follow the custody and legal decisions connected to the divorce.
Some parents may be open about their divorce and talk with you about it. They may let you know as soon as their husband or wife has moved out, or they may tell you that they recently went through a divorce. They may even ask you to be on the lookout for signs that their child is upset. They may share their concerns with you about some behavior changes they have noticed in their child. Some of those changes might be bed-wetting, temper tantrums, withdrawn behavior, or thumb-sucking. Parents may even ask you how to help the child, or may ask for suggestions about how to talk to their child about the divorce.
Other parents may not talk with you about their divorce at all. They may be so caught up in the stress of the situation that they are not ready to talk about it. Still others might think that the divorce is a “personal family matter.” Some may not understand how childcare is related to the divorce. If you see changes in the child’s behavior or the child lets you know that he is upset, you may need to bring up the topic with the parent. This might not be easy. If the parent has not talked about divorce or marriage problems, you do not want to assume you know what is happening.
Sometimes the child may the first one who tells you that the parents are getting a divorce. You may then want to report to the parents what the child has said about this. You could say, “Jenny was telling me and the other kids that you were getting a divorce. Is that true? I was wondering if there is something I need to be aware of so I could help Jenny.” Or you may ask directly, “Are there any changes that I should know about? Are there schedule changes or changes in who will pick up Jenny?”
As a childcare provider you may begin the discussion by telling the parent that you have noticed changes in the child. You may say something like, “Tommy seems very quiet recently. He used to love to play with the other kids. Now he seems to stay by himself. Sometimes I even see him get very angry if kids want to play with him.” Or you may say, “Jennifer has been crying a lot. She cries when something doesn’t work right, and she cries when the other children don’t agree with her. She also is sucking her thumb, and she didn’t used to do that.” Starting the conversation this way can do two things:
This opening will help the parent know that the child was showing some
changes in behavior. When parents are getting a divorce, they may not
have the time or energy to notice the changes in their children. Sometimes
parents have wrongly assumed that the child was too young to even be aware
of what was happening at home.
Go to: • Talking to parents
about problems in development
For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at firstname.lastname@example.org
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