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Helping Your Child Cope with Divorce

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: My husband and I recently separated and our son's school work has been suffering. He's more worried about what everyone else is doing, rather than getting his own work done. I don't have behavior problems with him and neither does my ex when our son's at his house. He has seen the counselor at school. What else can we do?

A: Your son experienced a loss when you and his dad separated, and he is reacting to that loss. As with any loss, it will take time and support for your son to get over what has happened. Many children feel responsible for the separation of their parents; if you haven't already, make sure your son knows that the separation had nothing to do with him and that both you and his dad still love him.

Continue the counseling for your son. If he needs more time than the school counselor is able to give, the school counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community.

Talk with the teacher about working out a positive reward system for your son. Ask her to send you a daily note (could be as simple as a check mark or smiley face) to let you know how your son's day was, then follow up at home. A good day can earn a walk around the block just with you or an extra bedtime story; two or three good days in a week can earn having a friend over to play on the weekend. You can increase the amount of time required to earn a reward as your son's work improves.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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