It’s almost that time. Summer is in full swing now, but the back-to-school commercials are right around the corner and the transition from summer fun to routines and homework will soon begin. Starting a new school year is stressful, both for parents and children; but when a separation or divorce happened during the summer, it can be especially confusing for everyone. There are many details to handle and it is best to form a solid co-parenting plan to make sure everyone is on the same page before the first day arrives. Here are some tips for divorced parents to help keep the school year positive and organized.
- Update The School: Take the time before school starts to reach out and explain the family situation. Specific details are not required, but it is helpful for the teachers to know the dynamics, home schedule if there is shared custody, and to be on the lookout for any emotional impact they may witness. Both parents should be added to any mailing lists; whether it is for newsletters, updates, fund raisers or field trips. Many teachers will also try to accommodate separate parent-teacher conferences if that is requested. It is recommended that both parents set aside their personal differences for the benefit of the child and the meeting, but if that is not possible for some reason, it is better to have two meetings to avoid stress on the child. You should also request two copies of any paperwork sent home including forms, report cards, and letters.
- Start An Online Shared Calendar: There are many activities that occur within the school year and it is hard for a complete family unit to keep up with all of them. When you factor in two separate households, it becomes twice as difficult. Having a shared schedule will keep all of you in the loop and aware of activities, as well as any supplies or transportation needed for those activities. You can also keep track of conferences, exams, report cards, required permission slips and information that both parents need.
- Keep Consistent House Rules: This one is especially challenging for the parent who may not have equal time as the main custodial parent. They may be tempted to loosen up on the rules when they have the children, but that is not beneficial in the long run. It is crucial for the parents to have a united front and consistent guidelines especially when it comes to school matters. Bedtimes, homework, electronic device usage; these should be negotiated between the parents and presented to the children as the rules for both houses. If tensions run high, or there are opposite opinions, this could be a sticky situation. Everyone needs to keep in mind it is in the best interest of the children to encourage expected behaviors regardless of when they are with mom or dad.
- Split The Supply List: There is no need for each parent to run off and start buying supplies. The child will end up with too much of some things and missing others. The best idea is to split the list and let the child go with each parent to find their specific items. It will probably be impossible to split the money equally, but you should be able to come close. It is also a good idea to buy extras of certain items, notebooks, pens/pencils, index cards, and folders. The basic supplies needed to complete homework or simple projects should be available at both homes.
The bottom line with these tips for divorced parents is children can be the forgotten victims of divorce and with much of their lives centered around school and the stresses that are common there, parents need to make every effort to lessen their anxiety about the trouble at home and keep them focused on their studies and social development. From orientation to the end of the year party, parents will find themselves in the same room with someone they currently dislike, but in the interest of the children and their peace of mind, both mom and dad need to rise to the occasion and be supportive. There will always be those parents who will fight and disrupt at every opportunity and unfortunately little can be done to remedy that; however most parents do want the best for their children and will put forth the effort to make the school year successful for everyone.