Heading back to school in the fall can be a challenge for you in the wake of divorce, especially in a joint-custody situation. Your child can also feel the effects of such an overwhelming change in the family unit, changes that will magnify with a new routine. There are simple steps you can take to help ease your child into a new school year without the added stress of adapting to sharing time between parents.
Back to School: How Do I Create a New “Normal” for My Child?
- Plan accordingly. Learning and understanding the kids’ schedules with your ex may seem like the last thing on earth you want to do, but it’s extremely important to know who has responsibility and when. The last thing you want for your child is to receive a call from the school because no one ever came to pick them up. You are both parents, and like it or not you need to be able to work together in that role.
- Lend a helping hand. Homework is often any child’s nightmare, but it must be done. Helping them with schoolwork can not only be a bonding experience for both of you, but it can also show your child that you’re invested in their education just as much as you expect them to be. When they feel your loving support, they are encouraged to do their best to make you proud. Remember: children live up to our expectations of them. If you expect them to fail, they most likely will.
- Give the school a heads up. Sit down and talk with your child’s teacher at some point during the first few weeks of school. Let them know that the family situation has changed and ask them to keep you updated. If your child is having difficulty dealing with the divorce, acting out at school is a common response and the teacher can let you know if that becomes an issue.
- Use direct forms of communication. Asking your child to relay information to your ex-spouse is unfair to them and extremely unreliable. If you need your ex to handle the parent-teacher conference next week, call your ex yourself. Communicating and participating with your ex shows your child that they are more important than your disagreements with the other parent. Remember, your child didn’t divorce your ex, just you did.
- Duplicate to alleviate. When traveling between houses, book-carrying can become a problem and a back-sore for your child. If you can, try getting another set of textbooks. It’s stressful enough if they leave their teddy bear at the other house – homework shouldn’t be added to that list.
If your ex fails to cooperate peacefully when it comes to your child’s educational well-being, joint custody may not be the best option for your family. Talk to a divorce attorney about making changes to the custody agreement to make sure your child has the best experience possible, and make going back to school easier for everyone.
Marshall Waller is a Certified Family Law Specialist with Feinberg & Waller in Calabasas, CA. He has gained a reputation as a dynamic and entertaining speaker and has spoken nationally and locally to trade, civic, and private organizations.