Getting ready for a new school year can be stressful for any family -- concerns about a new teacher, possibly a new class or even a new school, back to school shopping, getting on track with school calendars and activities for the upcoming school year.
This can get even more challenging for families where the parents are separated or divorced. Here are your top five, best tips for a stress free (or at least stress reduced) back to school strategies:
1. Connect with the New Teacher- Right at the Beginning of the New Year
The new teacher is just getting to know your child. It would help both your teacher and your child if you advise him or her that your child's family is separated or divorced. Inform them of the custody arrangements. If your divorce or separation are recent, it would be a good idea to let the new teacher know where your child stands emotionally and ask them to keep an eye on them, and keep the communication lines with both parents open. Do not speak poorly of the other parent with the teacher, not even in a hint. Ask for duplicate handouts and ask the teacher to update both of you whenever updates are needed or relevant.
2. Update the School as Far as Both Parents' Contact Information:
It is in your child's best interest, and in the best interest of productive co-parenting that the school has both parents' contact information. If your ex forgot or is unaware. It is ok to update the school or remind them to do so.
3. Put Your Child at the Center -- not in the Middle:
This is the time to focus on your child and put your divorce issues on the back burner. Tell your child you love them but do not make back to school too emotionally charged. If you have concerns about co-parenting through the school year, keep them to yourself. Give your child a sense of confidence in their ability to transition well and do well, socially and academically.
Talk about school routines, clarify procedures and expectations. It is a good idea to place a calendar of activities and parenting schedule in the house in a noticeable place such as your fridge. This way your child will get used to using a calendar and will also feel clarity as far as his or her schedule, for school, activities and time with both parents. Do not speak poorly of the other parent, do not underestimate their parenting ability or hint that your parenting is preferable in any way. It will make your child feel conflicted and anxious.
4. Be Emotionally Available:
It is very easy to get overwhelmed or just very busy. There is a lot going on in your life, and that is very understandable. It is crucial for your child's adjustment to be emotionally available for him or her -- to vent, to ask questions, to cry, to misbehave, to be anxious or just to want attention. Make your child your priority. If you need to consult with a professional, do so immediately, both for yourself and for your child. Assistance in smooth transitioning and keeping your child in the center, will pay off later with a happy, well adjusted child.
5. Get organized.
Shuffling between two homes can be confusing and things can often get lost in the process. To eliminate the frustration that goes along with transitions, try to be as organized as possible. Talk to your ex about the homework assignments, prepare a checklist for your child and get duplicates of items such as sports uniforms when possible. Ensure that you both have their best interest at heart and that you will both help him or her learn how to transition between the two homes smoothly. If not in your divorce agreement already, plan ahead: what should happen for events such as: emergencies, illness, inclement weather and early release days during the school year. Make sure you bot have back-up and emergency plans to avoid any confusion as well as help your child feel more secure during planned and unplanned events that may occur while they are at school.
Getting ready for a new school year through or after divorce does not have to be traumatic or confusing. With your help, even through difficult and adversarial divorces, your child can transition well and do great, both socially and academically.