Toll of divorce has lasting impact

Here’s a vignette that’s becoming all too often a reality. A new student enters the school year after the Christmas holiday. She transferred from another school district. She knows no one in this school.

She’s 15 years old, quiet, reserved and a tad overweight. Her clothes are clean and simple in taste. She’s nervous about her first day in this new school. Her grades are average. She left some friends at her former school. Her parents divorced and now she’s living with her mother and cat. Her brother is living with her dad.

Silently, the divorce and relocation have impacted her. She feels unsettled. She has her own room in her new home. Her mother leaves the house early for her job. She takes the bus soon after her mom’s departure. She brings her lunch that her mom prepared.

She doesn’t like to be late, so she awoke early following a restless sleep attributed to her anxiety about her first school day. She wasn’t very hungry this morning. She kissed and hugged her mom goodbye. “Have a nice day,” her mom said before driving to her job. She held her furry cat tightly and kissed him goodbye. She went out to the street and waited in the dark for the bus to arrive.

The morning was cold and rainy. In her haste to not be late, she hadn’t noticed and forgot her heavy coat. She wore a lighter coat and shivered at the curbside. The bus arrived 10 minutes late, so her hair was wet, which compromised her hairdo. She entered the bus, which was half full. She had learned at a brief school orientation that the bus ride would last 20 minutes.

She received stares from students while others paid her no mind. Most students were focused on personal phones or talking to others. She scanned the bus for a seat and found one about halfway down. As she began to slide into a vacant seat, the girl who sat near the window motioned for her not to sit with her. She sat with a girl who was listening to music. No eye contact was made. She sat feeling uneasy. No one spoke to her. When the bus came to a stop, the students jumped up to leave. She decided to wait until everyone passed her seat before departing the bus. Her seat mate slipped by her without an “excuse me.”

She entered the main building and cautiously made her way to the office as directed by the guidance counselor she’d met the previous week. The office was loud and busy with teachers, students and administrators collectively shuffling about.

She waited a few moments before approaching the office overseer. She asked for the guidance counselor who was planning to review her first-day schedule and then accompany her to her first class, but she was told the guidance counselor was out sick. Anxiety began to take hold. She was soon offered the assistance of another guidance counselor, yet she had to wait 10 minutes. He was meeting with another student. In the hustle and bustle of this brief interplay, no one, not even the overseer, interacted with her. No one gave her eye contact, a smile, a nod — nothing. After what seemed to be an eternity, the counselor approached her, said hello and asked her to follow him to his office.

He was friendly, yet matter-of-fact. As he quickly reviewed her academic schedule, including lunch break, he rose from his seat and beckoned her to follow him to her first classroom for homeroom. She walked beside him, entered the classroom and was introduced to the homeroom teacher. More will come in the next article.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton and Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email