Education Quandary: My husband and I are getting divorced. Will this harm our children's education, and what can we do to prevent it?

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Hilary's advice

The bad news first. Research does, I'm afraid, show that children of divorced and separated parents do less well in school than children in families that stay together. They are more aggressive, are more likely to get into trouble with the authorities, and more likely to develop problems with drink and drugs.

However, there are often factors at work in divorcing families that already make children prey to these kinds of things. And even if divorce seems to be the direct cause, it can be for many different reasons. For instance: divorce often makes parents poorer, and such problems are also associated with families who struggle economically.

You and your soon-to-be-ex husband must make sure your children feel secure and loved, and safe in the knowledge that you have been honest and straightforward with them about what is happening and why. Reassure them constantly that you are both still their parents and will always love them. Make good practical arrangements and stick to them. Tell their school what is happening and ask their teachers to let you know if they sense any problems developing. Above all, be adult about the situation. Children detest conflict, and it appears to be this that causes them most harm. However hurt and bitter you are feeling, keep your arguments private and don't turn your children into psychological footballs. All this is very hard – and very ongoing – so try to find support from a friend, counsellor, coach or mediator.

Readers' advice

By deciding to get divorced you are already putting your children at a disadvantage by demolishing their sense of home and security. If you care so much about them, why are you sacrificing their wellbeing to put your own needs first?

Brian Selverdon, Hampshire

Like all school heads I see children whose parents' divorces have caused them problems, and those who seem unconcerned. It is all to do with how you, the parents, handle this difficult time and I urge you to take the school into your confidence and make sure that your children's teachers are always kept up to date with the situation. Tell them, especially, if the children's home arrangements are being changed at any time. This will enable everyone concerned to help them.

Sylvie Chambers, London W4

You and your husband need to put aside any difficulties you may have and just work together for their best interests. Avoid letting new partners have too much input into decisions and matters of discipline. This is the hardest and most important thing of all to achieve as you cannot expect a new partner to love your child and necessarily act in their best interests, so you must both be aware of this. You and your husband should talk regularly about the children and never criticise each other in front of them or allow a new partner to do so. All this is quite hard to achieve but if you can I'm sure you will be rewarded with well-balanced and well-educated children.

Penny Joseph, Brighton

Next Week's Quandary

I am an enthusiastic, experienced drama teacher who has always been physical in the way I teach. I will move a child by the shoulders or give them a hug. Pupils are fine with it, but now my new school head has told me to stop. Do I have to cramp my natural style?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at www.hilarywilce.com. They can be searched by topic.

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