Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Preventing Academic Problems Related to Divorce (page 2)
Most of children's academic problems that are related to divorce occur because parents are challenged by the difficulties of post-divorce life and cannot stay on top of their children's school-work. This is especially so when single parents work, when they have to rely on childcare and babysitters, and when the children discover that it is easy to get away with not doing homework because Mom or Dad is too tired to check it.
Academic problems require quick identification and immediate action. Keep in regular contact with your children's teachers. You may wonder how much of your family difficulty you should describe to teachers. I would say not much. Teachers know that children have adjustment difficulties related to parental separation and divorce. All any teacher needs to know is that your child may be experiencing some adjustment difficulties because you are separating or divorcing, and that you would like to know what you can do at home to help the teacher at school.
If your child is having trouble in school, first refer the child to the school's child study team to determine whether the difficulties are related to learning problems or motivational and behavioral problems. Also, request that the child's intellectual potential and achievement be tested. You can ask the classroom teacher. If your school does not have the facilities to test your child, make arrangements to have the child tested outside of school.
Intelligence tests provide feedback on the intellectual potential of the child, indicating whether intelligence is above average, average, or below average. A child who has average intelligence should be able to do average work in an average classroom of his peers.
Achievement tests will provide feedback on whether your child is at, above, or below grade level in the main academic areas, such as reading, math, and science.
If you are unsure as to whether your children's academic needs are being met, request a meeting with the teachers and ask for an evaluation.
If intelligence is at least average, and achievement tests show that your child's achievement is significantly (usually half the expected level) below average, that is a common definition of a learning disability. Children who have learning disabilities show a discrepancy between what their potential is and what they have actually achieved. If your child has a learning disability, your school may have a program that can design an individual education plan to address his particular learning problems.
Sometimes emotional problems can cause a decline in achievement. If your child is at least average in intelligence and does not have a learning disability, you and your co-parent should look at two possible problems: homework avoidance and depression.
Homework avoidance. Homework avoidance is when your child develops a pattern of avoiding homework that ultimately leads to a decline in academic performance. Many school subjects, such as math, build one skill on top of the next. If a child starts to avoid homework and does not reinforce skills, it is likely that she will never catch up and will continue to fall behind.
Some children do not like school and will not do homework because they would rather do something more entertaining after school, like play video games or go outside with friends. To help your child live up to his academic potential, structure your child's time after school, and keep on your child to get it done.
One mistake that parents make is to let homework avoidance go too long before doing anything about it. Homework problems tend to follow children year to year. The first time parents discover that their child is avoiding homework, they should keep in regular touch with teachers and step up their own supervisory efforts, requesting regular progress reports to make certain that the child is not lying about homework assignments.
When children and parents are locked into a struggle over homework, co-parents must put their heads together and cooperate on how to get the child back on track. It is counterproductive when one of the parents refuses to crack down on the child because that parent sees the child less often and doesn't want to spend his visitation time scolding the child over homework or being the homework monitor. But just because you see your child for less time, that doesn't reduce your share of parenting responsibility.\
Parents who do not see their children often complain that they are not allowed to have full and complete relationships with the children. Having a full and complete relationship with the children includes teaching them to be productive members of society and responsible adults. The way you teach children how to be responsible is by teaching them to honor their commitments. Homework is a commitment, so start teaching.
Depression. Childhood depression is a serious problem for children of divorce. It can cause children to withdraw from peers and after-school activities and lose interest in school and homework. Childhood depression can be identified by a loss of energy, lack of interest in normal childhood activities like playing with friends, frequent crying, sad mood, and making statements such as "I want to be dead." If you see these signs in your children, please cooperate with the co-parent in taking your child to see a qualified mental health professional who specializes in children.
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