After I told my parents and my daughter about my separation, I felt it necessary to tell her teachers. I have friends who thought that was a bad idea. They couldn’t fathom telling mere acquaintances about something so intimate and painful. They couldn’t imagine bearing the potential judgment that could come as a consequence. They felt it was no one’s business really.
I didn’t necessarily disagree. I tend to be a pretty private person (I know you can’t tell from this blog!). I’ve also discovered, through therapy, that I’m a bit shy and reserved. I tend to reveal nothing if I don’t warm to you, and to reveal everything if I do. Most people fall into the first category. But for me, this situation was different.
My daughter was two years old when my ex left. As we all know, a lot happens in a child’s life when they turn two. They’re moving more, eating differently, speaking more, potty-training, learning about themselves, and further developing who they are as people. It's a very critical time in a child’s life, hence the whole “terrible twos”. My daughter went to preschool. So she was surrounded by trained professionals on a daily basis that ensured she was moving, eating, speaking, potty-training, learning, and developing as she should. I regularly relied on them to inform me of benchmarks and her performance as measured by them.
When something life-changing, like a separation, happened to me and my daughter, why wouldn’t I tell them? I wasn’t sure how this change would impact her, and how she’d express that impact. I also knew I wasn’t completely emotionally and mentally in tune with her development momentarily because I was preoccupied with grieving and trying to make a new life for us. I needed them to keep an eye on her - to watch how she’s doing, notice any changes, and guide me in addressing them. I wasn’t too proud to admit that, and to seek it out.
A few days after, when I dropped my daughter off, with sunglasses on and a wavering voice, I asked her teachers if I could talk to them. There were two of them - both women. I don’t even think I got a word out before I started crying. I told them, very briefly, what had happened - the highlights. I told them I was nervous about how my daughter would respond. They both hugged me, and assured me she’d be fine and they’d give her extra love. One of the teachers then stepped away to teach the class their morning lesson. The other, who had been married and divorced before, talked with me a bit more about her experience with divorce and co-parenting. She assured me that as long as my ex and I continued to parent and love our daughter, she’d be fine. She hugged me again, and I went on my way.
A few months later, I went to a parent-teacher meeting at her preschool. At that meeting, the preschool’s director talked in depth about all of the changes our two-year-olds experience. She wasn’t talking specifically to me, but it certainly felt like it! I just cried and cried. In my head, it was “oh my sweet girl! She’s having to walk and run and not be carried anymore. She’s having to feed herself solid food, and not be fed a bottle anymore. She’s having to form sentences and not just point at things. She has to know that she needs to potty, and then do it in time, and not rely on diapers. And as if that isn’t enough, her father and I decided she needed yet another drastic change!” Oh the mommy guilt was REAL! I sprinted out of that meeting so quick because I don’t think I could have handled a public breakdown. The next day I went to talk to the director, who had actually been at my wedding. I told her about my separation and my concerns about my daughter. She assured me that my daughter would be fine, that I would be fine, and that I was handling things well.
I’m so glad I told her teachers and preschool director because my daughter did develop behaviors that required extra attention. She didn’t act out or anything. But mostly, she became very clingy. Dropping her off at school became quite a production. She would not want me to leave. And when I’d finally gone, she would attach herself to one of her teachers all day. But because I had told them prior, they understood and gave her all the extra love she could have needed. Additionally, she took forever to potty train. Perhaps it was just too much change at one time. But it took far longer than it needed to, and her teachers actually said it was because I was being too lenient on her lol! Even more mommy guilt.
While talking with our children’s teachers may not be right in every circumstance - like perhaps when they’re infants or teenagers. I can’t imagine that simply telling one person at their school (maybe a guidance counselor) wouldn’t help. At the least, if our child “acts out”, they may get the understanding and love they need, as opposed to strict punishment.
Did you talk with your child’s teachers? Did it help or hurt?