How Divorce affects Students’ academic abilities

Separation between parents whether legally (divorce) or informal, can affect the student’s academic performance depending on how stressful the separation was.

Rayanne Chami, a doctoral student, working on her PhD in psychology at the King’s College in London explains that there are several possible routes for a divorce to influence a student’s academic abilities.

“ The family is a valuable domain in a student’s life, it may push the student to de-prioritize academic work,” Said Chami.

“ Psychologically, the divorce may produce guilt, as the student may feel responsible for the arguments, especially if they relate to him/her, ” She continued. If the parents begin fighting about the best way to raise their child, or about finances relating to school, the student may feel that their fighting is his/her fault.

A study found that students who experience separation at a young age were less likely to perform poorly at school. By contrast, students who experience late divorce are more likely to get low grades.

“ I don’t feel like my parent’s divorce really affected me in anyway, because it happened when I was five and I don’t remember anything, ” Said Laetitia Nehme, a freshman at the American University of Beirut.

“ I don’t really have very high grades and I didn’t do that well in school either, but I don’t feel like that was a result of my parent’s divorce,” said Nehme.

A separation between parents, especially if very turbulent can provoke the onset of a mental illness. Chami notes that these mental illnesses develop only through genetic predisposition.

“ Depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders or substance abuse are some types of problems that can arise, ” said Chami. “All these would influence the student’s functioning by affecting motivation, sense of self-worth and mood.”

Ghida Hreiby, Journalist student at LAU.

Research shows that when separation becomes imminent, students lose all sense of security and stability in the family, which is why they often turn to substance abuse to help feel more secure.

“ As soon as things began to get bad with my parent’s separation, I started smoking to cope with it, at first it was just a way to relieve stress but now I’m addicted,” Said Boutros, a first year finance student at the Lebanese American University. “ It wasn’t the best way to cope but I felt so alone that it seems okay to do so. ”

One study found that people with divorced parents skipped nearly 60 percent more class periods than those with intact families.

Tiana Sabbagh-Hawasli’s parents divorced when she was 13 years old.

“ They thought that they should both take extra care of me and satisfy me always, so whenever I didn’t feel like going to school, they would just let me stay home instead. ” Said Hawasli.

Depression, hurt, sadness are all natural reactions of students when parents get divorced.

“ Depression will most likely affect the way a student performs, actually depression is diagnosed when it produces impairment in the person’s day-to-day life, ” said Chami. “ It may stop one from sleeping, or it could have the opposite effect and induce sleeping for long periods of time, which could affect functioning at school, if one does not get enough sleep or attendance at school is one cannot wake up. ”

Depression as a result of divorce can also induce eating disorders which will lead to the students under-eating making it difficult for the student to focus in class.

“I was a good student before they separated, but I just lost all motivation to fix my grades and was mainly focused on getting my brother to feel better because I felt like he was really losing it,” Said Boutros.

A Harvard Health Help Guide shows that divorce can be one of the most emotional and stressful experiences in life, even though its over it can still affect people because it represents loss. However, there are some ways a person can cope with it. It’s very important to reach out for support and share with trusted friends and family members. It is also okay to get outside help if you need it.

“Seeking out reassurance from the parents and how will their separation will influence his/her daily life, ” said Chami. “ If time at home becomes increasingly stressful, the student could ask to stay with another family member for a small period of time.”

“If mental illness becomes prevalent, the student can see a psychologist who will help him/her address the problem,” She continued.

Chami explained an approach called the Emotion Focused Coping approach, in which the therapist can help the student accept and work with the feeling of what is happening. Whenever is it not possible to change the problem, it is good to work with how to cope with feeling. This approach is the opposite of Problem Focused Coping.

It is important to note that each and every person is different, and not every divorce is the same as the other. Some students would react differently to different situations.

Some cases may result in a very smooth separation while other violent and turbulent but is always important to remind the student that he/she are not alone and can get help.