- Research affirms teachers can assist children and families experiencing separation and divorce by listening, supporting, and engaging strengths-based strategies
Research presented this week at a Charles Sturt University international online conference explores the practices of early-years teachers when working with young children and families experiencing separation and divorce.
The research, ‘A strengths approach to supporting young children experiencing parental separation and divorce’, is presented at the online Early Childhood Voices Conference (Monday 16 to Friday 20 November) which has more than 2,300 registered participants from 70 countries.
Researchers in the Charles Sturt School of Education, Senior Lecturer in early childhood education Dr Linda Mahony in Wagga Wagga and Senior Lecturer Dr Angela Fenton in Albury-Wodonga, said the findings of this project 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.
“While 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.”
Face-to-face semi-structured interviews with 21 teachers of young children were conducted.
“Teachers were asked to share their stories about their pedagogical practices with children who were experiencing parental separation and divorce,” Dr Mahony said.
“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 focuses on solutions to complex issues faced by teachers in their day-to-day work with these young children and their families 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 adjustment.
The implications of the research are:
- Teachers can help by listening and by understanding that what is happening at home can affect children at school.
- 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 adjustment.
The research presentation relates to the following United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: