Divorced with Kids: Tips for Back to School

Resolve to make each school year better than the last.

Resolve to make each school year better than the last.

It is that time of year again: teachers are decorating their classrooms, parents are shopping for school supplies, and students are enjoying the last few days of summer vacation.  The new school year is about to start.  What are you going to do to make this a great year?

Back-to-school season is even more stressful when your child shares two homes.  Your child’s education is tough enough already–meeting teachers, tracking homework, signing and filling out permission forms, keeping track of extracurricular activities–without having to deal with the extra chores involved in split custody.  Here are a few tips to get your child’s school year off to a good start–

1.  Keep a positive attitude. Your child may be reluctant for the summer to end and for the back-and-forth of regular visitation to resume.  When you keep a positive attitude, it makes it easier for your child to make the adjustment.  Your child will feed off of your emotions.  Don’t let them sense that you are uneasy about your ex-spouse’s visits.  Instead, help your child to look forward to spending time with their other parent.

2.  Don’t let your child hear you talk bad about the other parent. I get it: you and your ex-spouse don’t get along.  There are hard feelings and bitterness.  It is so easy to make snide comments about the other parent.  But don’t.  At least not within the hearing of your child.  Bite your tongue.  If you put the other parent down in front of your child, your child will resent you instead of the other parent.

3.  Don’t make your child be the messenger. If you have information that the other parent needs to know, don’t make your child deliver the message.  Visitation exchanges are hard enough without putting pressure on your child to remember and convey information to their other parent.  It doesn’t matter if the information is trivial or important:  if the other parent needs to know, then you need to communicate directly with the other parent.  If you aren’t on speaking terms, then send an email.  Or write a note, put it in an envelope, and hand it to the other parent during the visitation exchange.

4.  Be involved. Get a copy of your child’s school and extracurricular activity calendar.  Attend programs, open houses, games, and concerts.  Go meet your child’s teacher.  Sign up for the school’s internet portal and check your child’s attendance, grades, and homework.  Help with fundraising activities.  Go to school and eat lunch with your child.  These are great ways to show your child you care, even though the two of you may not be able to live in the same house all the time.

5.  Make an effort to get along with the other parent. Let bygones be bygones.  Bury the hatchet.  Turn over a new leaf.  Be respectful and courteous of the other parent.  When your ex-spouse has a scheduling conflict, needs to change weekends or exchange times, be gracious!  This is not for the other parent’s benefit, but your own and your child’s.  When you can communicate and accommodate with the parent, your stress levels will go down, and your child will feel more comfortable in an unnatural situation.  Do it for you!

This year does not have to be just like last year.  Your child is a year older, and has matured more than you realize.  Make his or her year better by following these tips for a great school year.  You won’t regret it.