Educators have an important role in supporting children through separation and divorce
The Sector > Quality > Professional development > Educators have an important role in supporting children through separation and divorce

Educators have an important role in supporting children through separation and divorce

by Freya Lucas

November 25, 2020

Using a Strengths Approach to support children and families to navigate the complexities of separation and divorce can result in better outcomes, research recently presented at a Charles Sturt University international online conference has confirmed.


Key things educators and other caring adults can use to support children and families include listening, supporting, and engaging strengths based strategies. 


Researchers in the Charles Sturt School of Education, Dr Linda Mahony and Dr Angela Fenton said the findings of the project, dubbed ‘A strengths approach to supporting young children experiencing parental separation and divorce’, add to the body of knowledge regarding teachers’ pedagogical practices when working with children experiencing parental separation and divorce to build young children’s and families’ resilience and skills and to promote wellbeing.


“Separation and divorce has become a common phenomenon in Australia and affects a substantial proportion of children,” Dr Mahony said.


“While some children readily adjust to their parents’ separation and divorce, other children exhibit difficulty adjusting emotionally, socially, and demonstrate poorer academic outcomes.”


“Although there is much research about the social, emotional and academic effects of separation and divorce and diverse family composition, there is not much research focusing on the interface with education and how teachers work with these children and their families to facilitate adjustment to their changed family circumstances,” she added.


Face-to-face semi-structured interviews with 21 teachers of young children were conducted, during which they were asked to share their stories about their pedagogical practices with children who were experiencing parental separation and divorce.


“We revisited this data and applied a Strengths Approach as a theoretical framework and data analysis tool for viewing the practices of teachers when working with these children and their families,” Dr Fenton said.


The research showed that the Strengths Approach, which focuses on solutions to complex issues faced by teachers in their day-to-day work with these young children and their families, helped to promote wellbeing, and the actions of teachers focused on building on the strengths of the situation and the child to support them to make adjustments.


Implications from the findings include: 


  • Teachers can help by listening and by understanding that what is happening at home can affect children at school/ education and care.


  • Teachers can provide support to children and in partnership with parents can help with strategies to assist children to succeed emotionally, socially and academically.


  • Teachers engaging strengths-based strategies can assist young children experiencing separation and divorce in their family to make positive adjustments.


The research presentation relates to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 3: Good Health and Well-being and SDG 4: Quality Education


To view all of the presentations from the recent conference hosted by Charles Sturt University please see here

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