Back To School Advice For Divorced Parents

6 Parenting Lessons From Will Smith’s Ex
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Sheree Fletcher is the star of VH1's "Hollywood Exes" and the former Mrs. Will Smith.

For most, back-to-school means that we gather the required supplies and take the kids shopping for the latest fashion trends in hopes that the pressure of entering into a new grade will be somewhat eased by stepping foot on campus with a tight shoe game. (Nothing quite like a fresh, new pair of sneakers!) But when you add a fresh divorce into the mix, it's going to take more than a new pair of shoes for your child to have that boost of self-confidence that you so desperately want for them as they embark on this new season.

This is my humble advice taken directly from personal experience. I hope it helps!

In addition to nurturing your kids emotionally through a divorce, there are some grown-up decisions that have to be made with regard to school: Will your kids go back to the same school? Or will they transfer and go to a new one? And which parent will they predominately stay with during the school year? Where your child will go to school is an issue that needs to be worked out relatively quickly. Although the final decision rests with the parents, it's beneficial to get your child's input. I would recommend letting them know that their feelings and thoughts definitely matter and are important but in no way guarantee the outcome, and that as parents, you have final say on all decisions made on their behalf.

It's time for class. The subject is: What is the best back-to-school option for your child? Now would be a good time to tell your emotions to leave the room and take a recess as you and your ex discuss what is best. As a parent, you are responsible for doing what's best for your child.

Let's explore the situation. It may be that it's better for the child not to relocate, since he or she is now dealing with a divorce -- the loss of the family unit as he or she knows it. Transferring to a new school may also lead to the loss of friends and a familiar environment. What if the child wants to live with your ex? And what if that makes the most sense? I know for some, it may be difficult to even imagine that scenario. But rather than looking at it from an emotionally unintelligent place, let's instead be smart, savvy, and selfless as we try to understand the situation as it is.

How do you deal with your child choosing to stay with the other parent during the school year? This will be a blow to your parental ego and drive a perfectly sharpened no. 2 pencil straight through your heart! You may be baffled, hurt -- no, you're angry. Really angry. Angry at your kid. Which leads me to our next subject...

I'm here to tell you that the temptation to resent that precious child of yours -- you know, the very one you'd kill for, die for, take a bullet for? -- is very real. But beware: a lack of understanding can bully you into having very unhealthy feelings toward your child. If not understood, dealt with and expelled immediately, it could lead you to say things that could crush their spirit and stick with them for a lifetime. Never underestimate the power of your tongue. If you do slip and say something unkind fueled by your personal anger, meant to now hurt them because they hurt you, it is wrong. And you, being the adult, should swiftly acknowledge the wrong and immediately right it. How? Cop to it. Apologize. Ask for your child's forgiveness. Don't be too proud to do this; it in no way minimizes your position as a parent. It actually strengthens it.

If your precious little one has chosen the other parent, you may be left trying to understand how this could ever have happened. Talk about a curve ball! The internal banter goes something like this: Didn't I carry you for nine months? Haven't I always been there for you? Haven't I been a good mother? There lies the real issue. The immediate reaction is anger, which is just a manifestation of hurt from feeling like your child doesn't appreciate you or think that you have been a good enough parent. I'm here to tell you that you are turning this into something that it really is not. Rest assured, newly single moms, that if your child wants to live with his father at some point, it is no reflection on your parenting. Do not take it personally. He is not choosing Dad over you; he is choosing Dad in addition to you. It never crosses their minds that they are "choosing" in the sense of taking one parent and leaving the other. And it never enters your child's mind that he or she won't have you. You are a constant -- the common denominator. His arithmetic involves adding, not subtracting. He has you and gets his dad too: 1 + 1 = 2 parents! That's the way it adds up to them. And that is all they really want anyway.

My experience is with a boy, so I want to speak to mothers with boys. As mothers of boys, we have to understand that they need their dads. As good of a mother as you are, you can't teach him how to be a man. You can certainly teach him great morals, values, and character, but there is part of him that requires -- and will only respond to and be nurtured by -- another male. That's simply the way he's wired. A portion of his soul needs another man to speak life into him, to establish him and validate him as a man. It's a spiritual thing. And it simply is what it is. Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is to step aside for the betterment of another. There's no greater love than to lay down your life -- your wants, needs, desires) -- for another.

Well students, there you have it. I hope you have gained some insight from what I've said and graduated with an understanding that you may not have had before allowing me, Mrs. Fletcher, to lead the class. Class dismissed!

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