Some parents who are undergoing separation or divorce involve their child's daycare or school in their conflict. During the contentious period of resolving custody and access matters the school or daycare may be the battlefield for who picks up the kids and the place where parents vent their emotional distress. Further, some parents seek to enlist the support of teachers and childcare providers in the pursuit of winning their case thus placing teachers and early childhood educators in positions of conflict between mother and father.
Just as parents seek respite from the turmoil and upset of the custody and access battle, children also seek respite from their parents' conflict.
Children's "safe place" is usually their school or daycare. It is
therefore important for parents to recognize that in the heat of a custody
and access dispute, the child's school or daycare may be their last
bastion of peace. As such, parents are advised to tread lightly on
their children's sacred ground. If parents do not tread lightly, the school
or daycare can become tainted by their intrusions however well
intentioned. Parents who fail to head this warning can undermine their
child's willingness to return to the daycare or school. If the child
feels their daycare or school is a prime battlefield, experienced as a
source of contention or conflict
between the parents, the child may seek to avoid attending or may
demonstrate increased emotional difficulty when in attendance.
Parents are also cautioned against
requesting or demanding reports of their children's behaviour linking
it to the behaviour of either parent. This intensifies the position of conflict for the teacher and asks them to perform a task beyond their role and training. In the context of a custody
and access dispute, such reports are suspect. Assessors view them as
"one-sided" and it is easy to determine that persons whose expertise is
not in custody
and access matters and the dynamics therein have provided them. As
such, these reports do not necessarily help a parent's case and worse,
may hurt the child's sense of security and safety from parental conflict while at daycare or school.
Rather, when in the heat of a disputed custody
and access matter, the parents can ease their child's distress by
quickly agreeing on who and on what conditions each parent can relate
or communicate with the school
or daycare. The parents should then provide the daycare or school with
a letter detailing the agreement, signed by both parents. Parents
should access as many resources as possible to settle these matters
amicably. In the event parents still cannot agree, they are then
advised to obtain an interim court order specifying mutual conditions
and restrictions as quickly as possible and provide a copy of the order
to the daycare or school.
Furthermore, parents need to exercise their good judgment and boundaries and resist bringing the school
or daycare into their dispute. If information is absolutely required,
parents are advised to restrict their request to factual data such as
attendance, developmental or academic performance or behaviour. It is
inappropriate to ask the educator to link the data to the behaviour of
either parent as this is outside of their professional role.
In the run up to court, parents often seek
to enlist allies to support their case. However, parents are cautioned
against tainting the school
or daycare, undermining the sense of safety and security the setting
may provide their children. Parents in distress are advised to speak
with their lawyer, consider counselling, mediation, collaborative law,
and if matters are still in dispute, an assessment to provide
recommendations for settling the matters. But above all, leave the children's school or daycare as a safe place, free from intrusions and leave the staff free to concentrate on supporting your children's development.
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- The Indiaparenting Team