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Single Parenting

Speak Up

Let your children know there’s someone on their side

I couldn?t believe what I was hearing! Surely Noel?s third-grade teacher wasn?t referring to my daughter.

Yet, as I listened during a parent-teacher conference, she commented, "Noel talks too much in class, interrupts me when I teach, and has a difficult time sitting still."

Hoping to offer the teacher some insight into my child, I told her I was going through a divorce and that lately, things were pretty chaotic at home. She mumbled she was sorry to hear about it, but reminded me that Noel still needed to follow the class rules.

I understood the importance of children listening to those in authority, but something in our discussion didn?t feel right to me. I asked if I could observe Noel?s class without her knowing I was there. Her teacher agreed to let me watch from an observation room.

After several days of watching Noel in class, I realized what it means to be an advocate for my kids.

Twice during my visits, Noel went to the teacher?s desk to ask about a class project. I could tell that Noel was unsure of herself. She was a child who liked to do things right the first time and the stress in our lives made her fear that she would fail.

Rather than helping my daughter, the teacher announced to the class that Noel could not and did not want to follow directions. This embarrassed Noel deeply. The teacher?s reaction caused her to act out even more and the situation snowballed from there.

The week after I watched Noel in class, I poured out my frustration to the school principal. In his soft-spoken manner, he reassured me he would look into the situation. Within days, Noel?s cheery, sweet spirit returned.

Ironically, less than a week after this encounter, I received a phone call from my other daughter?s first-grade teacher. I thought, Oh, no! Not another problem.

Serena?s teacher asked if everything was OK at home because Serena had had two difficult weeks. She said, "I care deeply for your daughter. I know she?s going through a rough time and I want to do what I can to help." Her attitude made all the difference as Serena, her teacher and I worked together to address the situation.

Whether it?s a parent, a teacher or another adult they trust, our kids need special people in their lives to understand them and speak on their behalf, especially when they?re experiencing rough transitions.

Death and divorce are the top stressors in children?s lives. Often their emotional pain will reveal itself through behaviors such as aggression, withdrawal, clowning around, weepiness or hyperactivity.

If your family is facing a difficult situation, take the necessary time to talk to your children?s teachers or caregivers about the changes. With the help of caring adults, children can work through the challenges raised by a family crisis.

Most of all, when children sense the care and concern of the adults in their lives, they can better understand the way God cares for them and works for their good in all things (Rom. 8:28). God confirmed this recently when Serena called me from college.

"Mom, I?m praying," she said. "Would you please pray too? My professor and I don?t agree on my research paper. I?m pretty angry about it and I need God?s help."

Serena knows that the Lord is there for her. And he?s the best advocate she could possibly ask for.

Barbara Schiller is the executive director of Single Parent Family Resources www.singleparentfamilyresources.com. To respond, e-mail bschil4150@aol.com

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