It’s already August, and time for the kids to go back to school! This is a challenging time for any family, but when you’re a newly single parent, the hurdles may seem larger than normal, even when your former spouse is mostly supportive. To keep things on track and in perspective, we are pleased to offer five back to school tips that can save time, reduce stress, and help your children adjust.
- Listen to Your Children’s Concerns
This will be their first school year since the divorce, so things are bound to feel different for them. Don’t discourage them from venting. Instead, let the kids open up to you whenever they feel they need to. Listen to their worries and ask open-ended questions that encourage them to talk further. Always show an interest in how their day went, and remind them that whenever they feel uncertain or afraid, you are there to listen.
- Create a Comfortable Routine
The importance of routine cannot be emphasized enough. Try to cultivate and maintain a predictable school routine that the children can rely on. You will want to talk with them and your former spouse about school bus schedules, what to do if any of the kids become ill at school, and what the pick-up and drop-off routines will be if they enroll in after-school activities. Having answers to these questions can decrease their anxiety by eliminating unpredictability as much as possible.
- Develop an Effective Way to Communicate with your Ex
There are a lot more logistics to manage with children once the school year starts, and logistics usually requires communication. Talk with your former spouse to determine a way to share calendars (there are helpful online tools available for this), and remember how important it is for the kids to see both of their parents at important school events, concerts, and extracurricular activities. Talk with your ex as best you can about how key school-related issues like parent-teacher conferences, field trips, and prom will be handled, and remember that consistency is usually best for children when it comes to expectations like grades, driver’s ed, school night curfews, etc.
- Meet Your Children’s Teachers, Coaches, and other Trusted Adults
Your children’s teachers are there to help, so don’t feel compelled to hide your recent divorce or separation from them. Even if the kids don’t tell them first, they will certainly notice if there are any post-divorce struggles like depression, impaired classroom performance, or acting out. Ideally, you and the other parent should meet with the teachers to discuss the situation and create a communication plan if adjustment problems do end up surfacing.
- Keep School a Safe Place
During a divorce, and immediately thereafter, there is a lot of uncertainty for children at home. So they often turn to school to be a stable and safe place for them to socialize and concentrate on things other than their family transition. Children, particularly older children, derive a lot of support and identity from their peer group. So it’s important to remember not to let negative feelings, arguments, or miscommunications with your ex play out at your child’s school, or in front of his/her friends.
You will get through this period. Remember: you may be newly single, but you are not alone. Your friends, family, and even your children’s teachers all have vital roles to play in helping your kids adjust. Let them help. And above all, keep listening to your children. It is important for them to know that when they need to be heard, you are there.
At Haas Tharrington, P.A., we recognize and value the contributions that teachers and other educators make to the health and well-being of the children of divorce in their classes. As Carol Buchner once said, “They [students] may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel.”