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Posted By: re22 Students with divorced parents - 09/22/12 11:01 PM
Hi fellow teachers,

I have a brother/sister on my waiting list with divorced parents. I'm only meeting the father who doesn't have full custody. He will be paying for lessons & buying a piano for his children. I'm under the impression the mother is not good about taking them to their academic activities (based briefly on what the father has said)

This will be my first experience with divorced parents so I'm wondering is there anything I need to be aware or or concerned about?

The family hasn't come for there interview yet so I don't have a lot of information. Should I insist on meeting/contacting the mother?

Thanks all!
Posted By: MaggieGirl Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/22/12 11:07 PM
To make it work you may need to just schedule lessons for when they are with dad. It could be they have 50/50 and they have set days of the week with each parent or dad has every other week. if it isn't moms idea she might not let them do it during "her" time. Sad and unfortunate situation that is pretty common.
Posted By: LadyChen Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/22/12 11:08 PM
I don't have any students with divorced parents, but I do have a step-daughter who my husband and I have joint custody of, and similar to the mother you mention, my step-daughter's mother wasn't very good about getting her to activities.

If you anticipate this being an issue, you may want to ask the father if he can make it his responsibility to get the students to their lessons, even when they are at their mom's house. This has been the only thing that worked for my family. My step-daughter wanted to go to theatre school when she was little, and her mom absolutely refused to be involved with "little kids doing artsy-fartsy things" (her words), so on the weeks my step-daughter was at her mom's, we still picked her up after school on theatre class days, took her to class, and then dropped her back off at her mom's afterwards. Yes, it was unfair, and quite ridiculous, but it seemed like the best thing to do.

There is another potential problem with your situation, however .. will the mom commit to buying a piano? Or at least renting a good quality, full-sized, weighted keyboard?
Posted By: malkin Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/22/12 11:11 PM
If you've only spoken to one parent, it is possible that your impression of the other parent has been painted with just the teensiest bit of bias or perhaps a bit more.

Time will tell what the situation is, but it seems reasonable to have both parents' contact information or be sure that the schedule for lessons and practice is clearly completely dads' domain.

If the situation is unstable or if dad is making a custody play "They have to stay at my house in order to practice" and this is in violation of the legal arrangement it may be in your interest not to add them to your studio.
Posted By: Peter K. Mose Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 04:42 AM
Your lessons may unfold just fine yet mom might remain in the shadows. I would certainly not insist on meeting her: that likely won't go over well.

It's altogether possible that the children will not have access to a piano or keyboard when with their mother. For now I think you would simply have to accept this.

If you end up teaching these kids, you could send their mom a nice note of introduction after a few weeks of lessons.
Posted By: Overexposed Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 12:29 PM
re22,

As long as you have 1 responsible parent who has agreed to pay tuition, then I think you've got it covered.

Be sure your policy lets parents know that there are no refunds, credits, reschedules for missed or cancelled lessons (or whatever your policy is). It's up to the parents to figure out how to get kids to lessons. But your income should not depend on whether they work it out.

The only problem I've heard of is with kids whose parents divorced while kids were already in lessons. Teacher wasn't getting paid. One parent saying the other parent (who'd moved out of state) was supposed to pay. In that case lessons may end until parents get issues resolved.

I've had a few kids with divorced parents. In one case the step mother brought him to lessons and she was a responsible professional and there was no problem. It was just sad to see that during summers when he was supposed to have extended time out of state with his mother, she would end up not being available for him. A nice well adjusted kid though.

In another situation the divorce was happening while the kids were enrolled in my studio. They didn't do a lot of practice during that time and after the dust settled (sale of home, purchase of another) they moved away.
Posted By: John v.d.Brook Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 12:41 PM
Originally Posted by re22
This will be my first experience with divorced parents so I'm wondering is there anything I need to be aware or or concerned about?

Unless the students spend 100% of the time in the custody of one parent, you're going to encounter practice issues. The second parent likely will not purchase even a simple keyboard; there will be no practice the days parent #2 has custody. Parent #2 may well schedule conflicting events or activities.

I would ask to meet parent #2, although in a separate meeting, in an effort to gain their cooperation. Focus on the kids and their needs only. Don't take sides, etc., etc. Explain, as non-threateningly as you can, that piano studies takes the full cooperation of both parents. Ask them if you can count on theirs.
Posted By: re22 Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 05:13 PM
Good morning everyone!

Thank you all so very much for your replies. The information is quiet helpful! The family in question are neighbors and friends of 2 of my students that I've had for several years. Should I speak to my current students parents for a little more information or does that sound like it might be a sticky situation?

Thank you again!
Posted By: malkin Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 05:54 PM
Inviting gossip from the other families sounds kind of like a bad idea to me.

Accept the students with the same conditions you place on every student and communicate with both parents.
Posted By: Nikolas Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 07:33 PM
Originally Posted by malkin
Inviting gossip from the other families sounds kind of like a bad idea to me.
I agree! The divorce is already a difficult situation. There's no need for others to be talking about this.

Just find a way to get in touch with the parent #2 and see what kind of commitment we're talking about here... Especially in terms of studying, rather than paying.
Posted By: re22 Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 08:59 PM
Thank you smile
Posted By: keystring Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/23/12 09:49 PM
I think that both parents need to hear from the teacher, and the parent who did not initiate lessons will show what kind of cooperation they want to give, or not. If the other parent is responsible, then that person will want to be in the loop about their child's education because parenting involves giving a supporting role to education.
Posted By: Theme&Variations Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 03:38 AM
I teach two kids who only have access to a piano at their father's place. Their father and stepmother are invested in piano lessons and help ensure they practice every day when they are there etc.

They are progressing very well despite only having a lesson (45 minutes each) every second week and only having the piano there half the time. Of course it's not ideal but for reasons of family politics it's not worth insisting that they practice at their mother's place and/or trying to get her involved. Past experience suggests this would not be beneficial.
Posted By: John v.d.Brook Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 01:58 PM
T&V, the reason I suggest teachers discuss matters with both parents is that over the years, I've run into families where parent #2 actively tries to torpedo constructive activities initiated by parent #1. It's very sad. However, if parent #2 is overly vindictive and going to be working against you and the student, why bang your head against that brick wall?
Posted By: Overexposed Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 04:43 PM
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
T&V, the reason I suggest teachers discuss matters with both parents is that over the years, I've run into families where parent #2 actively tries to torpedo constructive activities initiated by parent #1. It's very sad. However, if parent #2 is overly vindictive and going to be working against you and the student, why bang your head against that brick wall?


Thanks for sharing your experience. It makes sense to "look before you leap".
Posted By: LadyChen Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 09:10 PM
I just wanted to add that this situation is not unique to divorced parents. I have students with MARRIED parents where only one parent can be counted on to get the student to the lesson, practice, etc. So when that parent is out of town, we're out of luck.
Posted By: RonaldSteinway Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 09:36 PM
These are the typical problems with kids from divorced parents:

1. I forgot my book, I left it at my dad house.
2. When they are late paying the lesson fee, the mom will say that it is not her responsibility. You need to talk to the father.
3. They got mixed up who will pick up the kid.
4. I cannot practice while I am with my dad, he does not have a piano.
5. I cannot join the recital, because I must go with my dad to .....
6. Many of these kids are also unhappy kids ( I do not know why, but it is my experience )
7. They often misbehave in the class, they love to try to get attention.


Posted By: John v.d.Brook Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 09:45 PM
Ronald, thanks for posting that list. It brings back many less than happy memories (I'm not castigating you, just appreciating the time it took to compile those problems. And I'm sure there are others we'd both rather forget).
Posted By: malkin Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 09:48 PM
The kids can be as happy and well adjusted or as miserable and attention seeking as any other kids, and the parents can be as clueless or competent as anyone else. Likewise, the relationship of any 2 parents married or not can be whatever it is at any particular moment.

Find out what the situation is with the family in question. Maybe there will be problems, maybe not.
Posted By: RonaldSteinway Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/24/12 09:52 PM
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
Ronald, thanks for posting that list. It brings back many less than happy memories (I'm not castigating you, just appreciating the time it took to compile those problems. And I'm sure there are others we'd both rather forget).


Thanks..That is why actually as a teacher,we need to be much more compassionate to these kids. They are not in the best situation emotionally.
Posted By: Theme&Variations Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/25/12 01:19 AM
Originally Posted by John v.d.Brook
T&V, the reason I suggest teachers discuss matters with both parents is that over the years, I've run into families where parent #2 actively tries to torpedo constructive activities initiated by parent #1. It's very sad. However, if parent #2 is overly vindictive and going to be working against you and the student, why bang your head against that brick wall?


Asolutely, I can imagine this, and I think the potential issues listed by others are useful to keep in mind too. I also take well the point that families with married parents can be just as issue-full!

This is actually my first time teaching the children of divorced parents, because I have spent the majority of my time teaching in a Catholic school and only taken on a handful of private students in the the last few years. The children in this case are the stepchildren of a close friend, who has heard me talk *a lot* about common issues I have with families over the past decade. She and her husband are also determined to make it work, perhaps all the more so because an earlier attempt with the eldest child didn't work so well.
Posted By: missbelle Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/29/12 09:11 PM
Just dashing in to say that my student with divorced parents appreciates that I have copies of all her music books, because often they are left at another home or vehicle!

I also found some carbon copy note paper with a cute print on it, that I use if she forgets her assignment notebook. That way, even with out the assignment notebook, I have a record of what we covered. She keeps the top white sheet, and I keep the yellow bottom in my files. Sometimes she actually staples her copy into the notebook when it is found. smile

She likes to talk, so I give her a few moments to "unwind" before we get into the lesson. She rarely practices (myriad of excuses, see list someone else posted above) but does enjoy lessons and I can gently push her to prepare for recitals.

I am paid through a school, so I have no idea about financial issues. I do know that we were a week into school before she was added to my list of students.

Do NOT talk divorce and issues with other students or parents.

Good luck!



Posted By: re22 Re: Students with divorced parents - 09/30/12 02:08 AM
Update:

Spoken with both the girls, the father, & step mother. Both the Mother & Father are willing to purchase a piano for their own homes.

The interview went well. The girls were able to explain things to me better. Almost all my students parents have English as a 2nd language.

Thank you everyone for your input!
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