Making Back-to-School Easier for Divorced Parents and Their ChildrenAs children in Tennessee and across the country return back to school in the fall, parents are helping children get back into school year routines to pave the way for happy and successful experiences. Going back to school can be hectic for all families, but divorced parents may have an even bigger challenge than most, trying to make sure a child’s year goes smoothly when the child has two homes. Divorced parents who co-parent can follow some tips to make the transition back to school easier for themselves and their children.
Coordinate SchedulesParents should meet in neutral territory before the school year begins to plan schedules. Parents should go through the school calendar and note when each parent will have time with the child, dividing up weekends and school vacations. Parents should also put important events such as parent-teacher conferences on their own calendars and both plan on attending.
If the child is involved in extra-curricular activities, parents should plan for transportation for the child to and from lessons, practices, games and team events.
Meet with TeachersMany schools host a back-to-school night where parents can meet with teachers to become acquainted with one another and to discuss the upcoming school year. If a child’s school does not offer such an opportunity, it is important that parents schedule a time to meet with teachers. Both parents need to attend this meeting. Parents should make sure the teacher is aware that the parents are divorced and provide each parent’s contact information. If teachers have email lists for parents or websites that parents can consult to learn about what is going on in class, both parents should be included.
Attending school functions such as a back-to-school night together also demonstrates to the child that his or her parents are both supportive and active in his or her life, which can have a calming effect on the child and help the school year go better.
Develop Systems for TransitionsChildren may have difficulties going between two homes, and things like homework assignments, permission slips and lunch money may fall through the cracks, forgotten at one house or the other. Parents can help children by keeping a folder for important papers in a backpack that each parent is responsible for checking. Parents may also want to invest in buying used copies of the textbooks their children use so that there are duplicate copies in each home. That way if the child forgets a book at the other house, he or she can still get work done.
Parents can also develop a system for reminding the child who is going to pick him or her up from school that evening or which bus to take, such as leaving a note in a lunchbox or pinning a tag to a backpack to serve as a reminder.
Commitment to CommunicationMany divorced parents have difficulties talking to each other, since the anger and hurt feelings from the divorce can linger long after they have separated. However, parents need to dedicate themselves to maintaining open lines of communication where their children are concerned. It is in the child’s best interest to have both parents aware of important school events as well as any issues the child may be facing, so parents need to prioritize their children above all else.
For those who find talking to an ex-spouse to be non-productive because the situation usually dissolves into an argument, email may be an alternative to in-person or telephone discussions. Electronic communication removes emotion from the discussion and allows parents to focus only on their children.