Whether you and your spouse recently divorced over the summer or you’re just trying to adjust to a new school year after a summer with your children, going back to school can be a difficult and stressful transition for both you and your kids. Despite the feelings you have for your ex or how the two of you get along, healthy co-parenting should be one of your number priorities. Here are some tips for adjusting to a new school year:
Meeting the Teacher
If you have a younger child, grade school aged in particular, it’s a good idea to meet with his or her teacher prior to the start of the school year. Whether you have a parent teacher conference or request a short meet and greet, take the opportunity to speak with your child’s teacher about your situation (divorced and/or shared custody). Even if you’ve been divorced for a few years, your child may still be adjusting to the change and as a result may “act out” or have some emotional challenges. There’s no need to give specific details about the divorce or use it as an opportunity to trash talk your ex, just talk to your child’s teacher about details that are pertinent to your child.
If you want to be in the know about important school events and information from the teacher, you are responsible for sharing your contact information with the school and teacher. When you meet with your child’s teacher, make it clear that you would like to receive information and be included on any e-mails, etc. that are sent out to the other parent. Do not rely on or expect that your ex will speak on your behalf. Additionally, avoid putting your child in the middle (and responsible for playing messenger) between you and your ex or with his or her teacher.
Work on Transitions and Routines
Divorce can be difficult on everyone, but it’s important to think about your child and how he or she may be feeling, especially when a new schedule change occurs such as embarking on a new school year. Whether you share custody with your ex during the week or on the weekend, always make sure that your child knows the schedule. If your child is involved with extracurricular activities and your ex shares carpooling duties with you, make sure your child knows who will be picking him or her up. Give your child information that will make him or her feel in control and what to expect.
Often times, once a custody agreement is put into place there’s little room for flexibility or change, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a little flexible. If your child, for example, had a tough day at school and wants to take to the other parent, allow him or her to do so or even suggest a Skype call. Encourage your child to have open communication with you about anything and if necessary, consider having your child attend a support group specifically designed for children of divorce or help him or her find someone he or she can talk to about the divorce (if it’s not you).