Up to 50% of children have to deal with the impact of their parents’ decision to end a marital/common-law relationship. The adjustments resulting from a marital breakdown are huge for students. School changes, new routines, and changes in lifestyle and family income are hard for children. Emotional distress—grief, anger, fear— caused by ongoing conflict between parents and the acrimony that can accompany custody disputes can make the adjustment even harder.
When this burden of conflict and sorrow bears down on a student, school life is also likely to be affected—marks may decline, and students may be less able to manage their emotions and stresses. When difficulties persist, they can lead to mental health problems and affect academic success and social development.
Most of these pressures are beyond the school’s ability to control, but there are some measures that can help students stay on track.
Parental separation and divorce put students at risk. Mental health vulnerabilities can be triggered or worsen, and a student’s belief in his/her own capacities can decline.
Studies indicate that children of divorced parents drop out of high school at a much higher rate. A 20 year study of 9400 children showed that only 60% of children of divorced parents complete high school, compared to 78.4% for children with parents who are still together. For students who have been subject to the impact of more than one divorce, the drop-out rate rises to 50%.(Strohschein, Roos, and Brownell, 2009)