Back to School: Tips for Newly-Separated Parents
The start of a new school year is busy for everyone… parents, students and teachers alike. Even more so for recently separated parents, and children of recently separated parents, diving into new routines and schedules all while going through a fairly heavy period of adjustment pertaining to the family breakdown.
With the hustle of back to school supplies and clothes shopping now well underway, there are some additional, quite important tasks or goals that newly separated or divorcing parents may wish to consider in the best interests of their children:
1. Make positive co-parenting your focus, always.
One of the biggest changes children of newly separated or divorcing parents might experience upon their return to a fresh school year, is a new reality of feeling short-changed in the support department where always or usually having both parents present to advocate for or cheer him/her on becomes limited to either one or the other parent, separately.
Unless there is a really good reason (domestic violence / an EPO or restraining order, or abusive behavior shy of that which isn’t in your child(ren)’s best interests to witness), be the bigger person. Swallow your pride and be there for your kids. Keep you distance if that’s best, but ensure your child knows that despite what is going on with his/her parents, he/she still has the support of both parents, nonetheless.
Remember that your child(ren)’s chances of succeeding in school, and otherwise, are best if they aren’t experiencing negative stress, unnecessarily.
Never, ever, talk the other parent down to or in front of your children. With a new school year comes a barrage of related expenses. Never fault the other parent for your child not being able to participate in a particular activity or add the newest on-trend toy or clothing item to his/her collection. If there are arguments between you and your ex-spouse about contribution to certain expenses that cannot be resolved between you, do your best to use it as an opportunity to teach your child(ren) about reasonable expectations when it comes to activities that cost money, and about budgeting. There is never a good reason to bring your child(ren) into legal disputes between yourself and your ex-spouse.
2. Decrease the possibility of arguments over scheduling by making sharing information easy.
In today’s day & age, there are really no excuses for miscommunication over scheduling and events, including pick-up and drop-off responsibilities. With smartphones, we have access to an endless amount of applications that can quite literally assist with pretty much any aspect of our lives that we can think of.
A new school year brings with it new routines and more juggling, especially when we are talking about various work schedules and multiple children with varying schedules chalk full of school, sports and other extracurricular, social and health-related appointments and events. Add two separate households into the mix and things quickly get even more complicated.
So head on over to the app store, because I assure you… there’s an app for that. There’s many of them, in fact, including but not limited to Our Family Wizard, coParenter, Cozi Family Organizer, Talking Parents and SquareHub.
These types of apps provide interactive calendar sharing functions (scheduling and appointment details, change requests) as well as messaging boards, expense logs, journal logs and general information banks, all of which serves as a central platform for family information contained in one place. There is a minor cost associated with some apps, while others offer a free basic version with the option to upgrade for particular features.
Use of this sort of an app will make your life and your ex-spouse’s life easier, which will in turn make your child(ren)’s lives easier, which should always be the focus. This is true even if you’ve been separated or divorced for years, and haven’t yet discovered these tools! Late is always better than never.
3. Prepare your kids, together if possible.
Many kids might experience anxiety surrounding feeling the need to explain relevant changes at school / to their schedule, related to the family breakdown. Keep an open dialogue with your kids about how school is going, how they are coping with the changes and any questions that might be coming their way while at school. Be prepared to brainstorm ideas with them as to the sorts of things they might say to their peers or teachers, that they are comfortable with.
4. Share with your child(ren)’s teachers, but don’t overshare.
Some degree of information sharing with your child(ren)’s school is required, in order to help ease the transition for your child and promote a sense of understanding in his/her/their teachers. Most parenting schedules involve some transition(s) from one parent to the other surrounding the start or end of a school day. Particularly for younger children, it can be confusing to keep track of where they are supposed to be and on which days.
Provide teachers with contact information for you both, and ensure the school is clear that any and all communications are to be sent to both households. This is also important for your child(ren)’s sense of continuity and consistency between households.
Be mature about the information you share. Avoid private details about your family breakdown – this is definitely a less is more situation!
If you keep your focus on your children, always, these are very logical guidelines to follow. And, as an added incentive, Judges are always more impressed by a friendly parent than an unfriendly one.