Back to School Tips for Divorced Families
Back to school can be a stressful time for children, add the stress of having a parents that are separated or divorced on top of that and it can be REALLY hard on them. As parents, we want to do all we can to lessen the amount of stress that are children are under! Here are some tips to make sure that the beginning of the school year goes as smoothly as possible for your child:
- COMMUNICATION: In situations where parents are no longer living together communication is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of co-parenting for so many reasons!
You want to make sure that both you and the other parent are fully aware of what is going on at school, what activities your child is participating in (and when they are), what assignments and projects your child has due, etc.… If a child is transitioning from one home to another during the week and both parents are not aware that a child has a project or assignment due it is possible that it will not get done. There are tons of resources out there to make it easier to make sure everyone is aware of what is going on. Events can be put on a google calendar that both parents (and the child depending on his/her age) have access to so everyone knows when events are taking place and projects are due. Documents that come home from school could be put in a shared Dropbox folder so everyone has access to them no matter where they are. Make sure the school has the contact information for both you and the other parent. It is fine to provide a custody order to the school too so they are aware of what access schedule the child has with each parent. Feel free to email your child’s teachers to let them know of the family situation. Many parents also like to use a notebook that they pass back and forth at exchanges. This way, a parent can write notes about what part of an assignment was done with the child, what part remains to be done, when it is due etc.…. The child should have NO PART of this notebook and should not be the person to exchange it. You want to do all you can to communicate directly with the other parent. Your child should not be a go-between between you and the other parent – no matter the age of the child.
- RESOURCES: Make sure your child has access to the same resources at both parents’ homes. Consider asking the school for a second set of textbooks so your child will have a set at each parent’s home so it is easy to get homework done. Create the same expectation that homework and assignments will be completed no matter which home the child is in. Consistency is key for children. They need to know that their parents have the same expectations for them no matter where they are staying on a given night.
- CIVILITY: For some parents civility is the hardest part of co-parenting but for children it can be the crucial for your children to make a smooth transition going back to school. If your child is constantly stressed about how you and the other parent will behave and react during exchanges, telephone calls etc.…then it is hard for him/her to ever truly relax during the time they are with you. You NEVER want to make a child feel like they have to choose between you and the other parent. You need the child to know that you and the other parent are still a team when it comes to parenting (even though you both are no longer a “team” in marriage). You DO NOT want your child to be worried that when you and the other parent have to attend school activities together that you will be fighting or showing negative feelings about each other. If only one parent is there at an activity make sure that the parent who is there takes pictures and sends them to the other parent. Let the child know you are doing it. Saying something like, “I know Mom really wanted to be here but I am going to send her these pictures so she can see how great you did” goes a LONG WAY to make your child know that both parents care about them and love them.
- KEEP THE FOCUS ON YOUR CHILD: No matter what, make sure the focus is ALWAYS on your child. Even if your divorce is finalized it can still be a stressful time for you to transition to being a single parent. Do not let your children know how stressed you are. Do not tell them all of the things the other parent is doing wrong or how he/she won’t communicate with you. Your child does not need to know those things! Your child’s job should be focusing on school and being a child – NOT dealing with the issues the adults are struggling with. Make sure your child knows that both you and the other parent are there providing unlimited love and support. Really listen to your child and pay attention to what they are telling you! Children see and understand a lot more than you think they do.