There's a long-held belief by divorce professionals that New Year's Day kicks off "the divorce season." So if that's true, and your divorce began earlier in the year, it will likely be finalized by summer's end. Leading to a significant change in physical, financial and emotional circumstances for you and your children.
Right before the start of a new school year.
So what can you do to make it easier for your children as summer winds down and they prepare to go back to school -- with newly divorced or divorcing parents? Here are five strategies to ease the transition from married to divorced. And keep your children on track for the upcoming school year.
Strategy #1: Keep Child Custody Arrangements Consistent
If you have minor children, during your divorce proceedings, you agreed on a custody sharing plan for them. Outlining where they would go after school and sleep on school days and weekends. Sticking to the plan and/or creating one that's consistent from week-to-week can go a long way towards easing the confusion your children may feel as they enter the school year under these new circumstances.
They may now have two different bus routes, need to pack a bag depending on which items are at which house and have to remember whose house they're staying over at on a given night. If your parenting plan is constantly switching week to week, your poor child is going to have a lot of trouble knowing where to go, what to bring and what bus they're going to have to get on.
So it's important you come up with a plan that doesn't vary wildly from one week to another. And is easy for both you and your kids to remember.
Strategy #2: Leverage Technology to Improve Communication
Difficulty communicating is common for couples who divorce. So if you think it was difficult to communicate when you were living under the same roof, try doing it from separate households. With everything kids have going on these days, how will you keep each other apprised of their activities, schoolwork, doctor's appointments, field trips, etc. so you can actively co-parent?
Leverage technology by using a shared online calendar and place the children's activities, schoolwork due, etc. on it. This way, you can each access it from your computer or phone and be fully informed of the kids' schedules.
Strategy #3: Inform Teachers and Counselors
While less common these days, you may need to help kids deal with the stigma of your divorce. It's a good idea to make their counselor or favorite teacher aware of your divorce so they can keep an eye on things.
Kids may not want to or know how to express what they're feeling and instead it may present as poor performance in school, bullying or even drug or alcohol abuse. And since a favorite teacher or counselor isn't their parent, your child may be more comfortable opening up to them about how they're feeling.
Strategy #4: Develop an Expense Tracking and Sharing System
Now that you're no longer living together as an "intact family," you'll need to put a system in place to handle the extraordinary financial expenditures that aren't a part of your traditional child support arrangement. Field trips, book fairs, and all of those other things that kids come home from school needing money for. And if your parenting plan is set up in such a manner where the children are spending every night during the school week with you, chances are, you're the parent who is going to be solicited for the cash. You'll need to have a way to keep track of these expenses monthly so that you and your ex can each share in paying for them.
Consider opening a shared bank account where each of you deposits funds into it. And keep a running tab online using a free document sharing solution like Google Docs. Then much like when filling out an expense report for a company, you can gather up your receipts and expenditures, enter them into the document and discuss with your ex who will pay for what.
Trust between the two of you may be difficult, but is critical to your long-term ability to successfully co-parent your children. And this is a good way to build it.
Strategy #5: Keep a Unified Front
At the end of the day, you are still both responsible for raising your children. And your marital status shouldn't impact that in the least. So be sure to keep things consistent as the children move from mom's house to dad's house. Simple things such as enforcing the same bedtime to keeping similar routines such as homework first before TV, etc. can go a long way towards avoiding arguments about differing parenting styles.
And while they may not like to admit it, kids thrive on routine. So keeping a unified front at both houses to provide a consistent parenting experience while eliminating the age old argument of "why can't I stay out until midnight? I can when I'm at mom's / dad's house!" Kids are very good at figuring out who's the softie and who's the disciplinarian!
By keeping these five tips in mind, you and your ex can help make your divorce easier on your children as they get ready to go back to school.