Back to School Advice for Divorced Families

children running, backpacks on their backs, towards school

Jeanette Soltys’ son Logan on his first day of school this year!

School is now back in full swing, and many newly divorced parents are having to adjust to parenting during the school year from separate households.  The following tips can help ensure your children’s success.

  1. If your children spend some weeknights at both homes, get on the same page with your ex regarding bedtime during the week. Children need a consistent schedule between your homes.
  2. Don’t rely on your ex to pass along school information. While you and your ex should forward each other information, if you have problems with your ex keeping you informed, then do your best to get information directly from the school.  You can contact the school and request that report cards and other important information be sent separately to each parent, and even request separate parent teacher conferences, if necessary.  While it is best for you and your ex to work as a team, if your co-parent refuses, then working separately with the school to stay informed is typically easier than conflict with your ex trying to get them to cooperate.
  3. Don’t dress your child in clothes you will be upset over if they do not return. This is an issue that I hear about over and over from divorced parents.  Yes, you may have bought Johnny nice new clothes and then dad sends him back to your house in Walmart sweatpants, but I can tell you from many years of working with divorced families as well as my own experience (as the parent who is bad about returning clothes!) that this is a losing battle.  The other parent is not going to keep track of every item that comes to them from your house and ensure its return.  The solution is to dress the children in clothes you okay with not returning on days where they transition to the other parent.
  4. Create a shared family calendar. This is essential for keeping track of visitation schedules, extracurricular activities, school events, homework deadlines, etc.
  5. Attend school events together. Put the hurt or anger from the past away, ignore any awkwardness, and put a smile on your face for the sake of your kids.  It makes children feel uncomfortable and conflicted if mom and dad are standing on opposite sides of the room and the child has to go back and forth.  Sit with your ex at the children’s events, and once they have a new partner, accept that this is your new normal, a natural occurrence after divorce, and sit with them, too, without complaint or showing outward dissatisfaction.  Showing your children that they are free to love all of these people in their life without feeling guilt about hurting one parent is one of the best things you can do for them.

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