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Dealing with Divorce in the Family

Grade Level: 4th grade

Length: 6 weeks
Length of Sessions: 30 minutes
Number of Members: 5 group members
Gender of Members: Mixed

Group Rationale: Parental divorce is prevalent in Western societies; for example, the
United States. Children of divorced families often feel that they are partly responsible for
their parents divorce, which later can result in emotional distress and negative changes
within parent-child relationships (Pelleboer-Gunnink, Van der Valk, Branje, Van Doorn, &
Dekovie, 2015). Compared to children with continuously married parents, children of
divorced parents are also disadvantaged when it comes to life outcomes, such as a
likelihood of dropping out of high school, cognitive skills, psychological well-being, and
social relations. These outcomes have not reduced, even though the social stigma
attached to divorce has significantly (Kim, 2011).

Group Goal: Students will be able to develop an increased understanding of the

various changes that occur in their life during the process of their parents divorce.
ASCA Mindsets :
1. Belief in development of whole self, including a healthy balance of mental,
social/emotional and physical well-being.

ASCA Behaviors:
1. Learning Standards:
a. Demonstrate creativity.
2. Self-Management Skills:
a. Demonstrate ability to manage transitions and ability to adapt to changing
situations and responsibilities.
3. Social Skills:
a. Use effective oral and written communication skills and listening skills.
b. Create positive and supportive relationships with other students.
Target Population: Fourth grade students who have been identified as having parents
who are divorced. The impact of divorce appears to be the most severe for young
children, which may be due to their lack of coping skills, their inability to develop support
from outside sources, and the tendency to blame themselves for their parents divorce
(Smead Morganett, 1990). The group will consist of a mixture of students whose
parents have divorced recently, whose parents have divorced within 6 months to a year,
and whose parents have been divorced for several years and/or have remarried.
Pre-Screening: Students are identified by their school counselor, teachers, and/or
parents as having a difficult time handling their parents divorce. Some signs that
indicate this include reverting to behaviors of earlier developmental levels, changes in
eating and sleeping patterns, isolating self from family or others, a drop in grades or
lack of motivation in academic work, social aggression, and hiding, avoiding,
daydreaming, or hostile behaviors (Smead Morganett, 1990). Students will be contacted

by being asked to go down to visit with their school counselor before their lunch.
Students will then be told about how the group could be beneficial to them and will be
asked if they would like to participate. Students parents will be sent home a letter of
permission to attend the group sessions.
Leadership Style: The leadership style that will be applied as the group is overseen is
modified democratic. The group counselor/facilitator should keep the group on task, and
be firm but fair when it comes to discipline. As the leader of the group, it is important to
protect the group members and encourage participation from members. Lastly, the
counselor/facilitator should communicate using basic counseling skills, modeling, and
Evaluation: The group will be evaluated with a pre and a post test (Appendix A), along
with a divorce ideas scale (Appendix B) that will be given at the first and last group
sessions. The effectiveness of the group will be measured by a majority of the students
answering more positively throughout the questions on the posttest and ending divorce
ideas scale. 100% of the students will attend all six group sessions. Lastly, the school
counselor will follow-up with who identified the students as having a difficult time
handling their parents divorce; If success does not occur, or occurs inconsistently,
outcomes of the group will still be communicated to those who referred the students.
For future groups, lesson plans will be adapted in order to receive more effective
results. The effectiveness of the group will be seen by assessing the behaviors of each
student. For example, behaviors related to parental divorce, such as developmental
behaviors, eating and sleeping patterns, and academic work, will increase in each

student by 50% within six weeks. Negative behaviors related to parental divorce, such
as isolation from family or others, social aggression, and/or hiding, avoiding, or hostile
behaviors, will decrease by 50% within six weeks (Smead Morganett, 1990).

Kim, H. S. (2011). Consequences of parental divorce for child development. American
Sociological Review, 76, 487-511. doi: 10.1177/0003122411407748
Pelleboer-Gunnink, H. A., Van der Valk, I. E., Branje, S. J. T., Van Doorn, M. D.,
Dekovie, M. (2015). Effectiveness and moderators of the preventive
intervention kids in divorce situations: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of
Family Psychology, 29, 799-805.
Smead Morganett, R. (1990). Skills for living: Group counseling activities for young
adolescents. Champaign, Illinois: Research Press.

Synopsis of Lessons
Week 1:
Discuss the goals for the group, and why students were selected.
Discussion and creation of the ground rules.
Pretest and Divorce Ideas Scale
Comparison of living in a family in which parents are divorced to being in a storm.
Discuss different feelings all family members may be having.
Discussion of how negative events can lead to positive things.
Week 2:
Review ground rules and confidentiality.
Students complete the Changes in My Life sheets.
Students share the different changes they have had.
Week 3:
Review of previous session.
Students answer specific questions on notebook paper.
Discussion of how creating new families once parents get divorced.
Students draw the houses/apartments they live in and who lives in each. They
then share what they drew.
Discussion of questions to close the session.
Week 4:
Review of ground rules and what each student has learned so far.
Responsibility circle activity.
Students color the Color Feelings Person worksheet by using the Color Chart.
Students share what colors they used and for what reasons.
Discussion for why it is okay to have different feelings.
Discussion of I-statements. Encourage to use them throughout daily lives.
Week 5:
Review of ground rules and I-statements.
Discussion of positive things in each students life. Write these down during the
chart activity.
Using a full length mirror, students say three nice things to themselves. The
counselor and other students then say nice things about each student.
Discussion about the activity.
Remind students there is only one session left.
Week 6:
Review of ground rules and previous session.
Completion of Posttest and Divorce Ideas Scale.

Review of what was learned throughout each session.

Create goodbye cards.
Week FiveFeeling Good About Myself
Students will be able to recite one Istatement to the group.

Assessment = Monitored discussion
Evaluation = 4/5 students will be able to recite
an I-statement.

Students will be able to identify two positive

strengths and/or interests they have.

Assessment = Monitored discussion and

answers on chart paper
Evaluation = 100% of students will identify one
positive strength and/or interest of themselves.

Students will be able to indicate three

positive things about themselves.

Assessment = Mirror activity and discussion

Evaluation = 100% of students will indicate two
positive things about themselves.

Ground Rules sheet (Appendix C)



Cardstock paper

Piece of chart paper


Full-length mirror


1. Have each student read off a ground rule from the sheet (Appendix C). Remind
the students about confidentiality.
2. ReviewAsk each student to go around a say an I-statement about how they
are feeling at the moment. Ask if they used the I-statements outside of group,
and have the students explain when and if it worked or not.
a. Ask the students what they learned during the last session.
3. Remind students that even though many negative things happen during a
divorce, there are also positive things that occur. For example, sharing thoughts
and feelings, learning new skills, and learning to get along with new people.
4. On a sheet of chart paper, make several columns with titles: The Person I am,
Friends, Schoolwork, Hobbies/Sports, and Family. Ask the students about what
they do well or like about themselves in each category. Write down the responses
on the chart paper, in each column, as they are given.
5. Let the students know that it is important to feel good about ourselves even if
things are not going well in our families. Lean the full-length mirror against a wall,
and model by looking into it and saying three nice things to yourself.
6. Have each student get up, stand in front of the mirror, and say three positive
things about themselves. The facilitator then says one positive thing about the
student, and the other students then add three more.
7. Discuss the following questions with the students:
a. How did you feel when you were standing in front of the mirror and saying
nice things about yourself?
b. Was it hard for you to believe the things other people said?

c. What did you like or dislike about doing this exercise?

d. Do you think it may be easier for you to think positively about yourself in
the future? If so, why?
1. Ask the students if they would like to add any comments or ask any questions
before this session ends.
2. Encourage the students to practice saying these positive things about
themselves and others outside of group. Let them know that they will share their
experiences during the beginning of the next session.
3. Remind students that there is only one session left, which is next week. Lastly,
remind the students of the confidentiality rule.
Smead Morganett, R. (1990). Skills for living: Group counseling activities for young
adolescents. Champaign, Illinois: Research Press.