Back to School After a Divorce

School is back in session. That means a change of schedule, a change of weather and -- when you're divorced -- a change in how you need to interact with your ex.
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School is back in session. That means a change of schedule, a change of weather and -- when you're divorced -- a change in how you need to interact with your ex.

After all, just because you are no longer husband and wife (or boyfriend and girlfriend), you are still mom and dad. With school starting, this means you both need to be on the same page with how you're going to manage transitions and support your child's scholastic needs.

This is no easy task. It requires a mix of little details and big picture thinking. In some cases, it requires re-imagining trusted traditions (where will the "first day" photos be taken?) or re-arranging work schedules. In all cases, it requires that you and your ex bring your best selves to your relationship with your kids and each other.

To help, I consulted Wevorce parenting expert, Shirlene Elledge, for some tips. Shirlene is a Licensed Social Worker and Certified Professional Mediator who specializes in issues facing blended families and children of divorce. Here are some of her thoughts.

Big Picture

  • Kids who are focused on succeeding in school, typically succeed in life. Do whatever you can to help them focus. Eliminate relationship drama and give them the security of knowing both parents are engaged.

  • Kids don't care if it's "your week" or not. Showing up for school events sends a strong message -- one that will be remembered for a lifetime.
  • Often, a child's emotional struggles manifest in school work. If your child is struggling academically and your efforts are failing to yield results, consider seeking professional help. Redirection is easier months into their struggle instead of years into their struggle.
  • "Little" Details

    • Decide which parent will be the primary contact to handle school administrative details. This doesn't mean you both shouldn't be involved and informed (see below) but it does mean someone should take responsibility to get the school what it needs.

  • Make sure the school and teachers have both parents' contact information. Ask that, whenever possible, announcement emails and other notices go to both of you.
  • If the school uses an online system for tracking assignments, grades, and attendance, be certain both parents have the login information.
  • Share an online calendar to keep everyone informed.
  • Schedule a quarterly (or even more frequent) co-parenting meeting to discuss your child's academic needs, successes and upcoming events.
  • Check-in regularly and informally with your ex and your child on what's happening at school. Different perspectives can provide a full view.
  • Developing these habits can seem awkward at first. However, with time and practice, they can become a regular part of your routine.

    There are going to be tough moments, sure. You may not both be able to tuck your little one into bed the night before her first day of school. And packing lunches is typically a one-parent-at-a-time sort of activity.

    But once you realize that your child should not have to pick one parent's "team" over the other parent's "team" -- that you can all be on the same team -- the outcomes can be better than you imagine.

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