Heading Back to School after a Divorce

With fall quickly approaching, it is that time again, at once bittersweet and anticipated by parents everywhere – back-to-school. But, if you are recently separated or in the midst of a divorce, this first back-to-school season will be another in a series of adjustments. Summer certainly had its own challenges and negotiating vacations when children are not in school can be tough, but the upcoming school year poses its own unique issues to face.

You made it through summer (mostly) unscathed, and trust us, you will handle this next challenge with the same strength and patience. Our advice: proper planning and open communication.  While the latter may be difficult if a split was less than amicable, putting the children first is always a good idea. As you race through the aisles of Staples, loading up your cart with notebooks and pens, consider these back-to-school strategies to make the transition easier on you and your children.

Keep Teachers/Counselors in the Loop.

Divorce can be tough on children and often times they are hesitant to open up. Since the school year will mean spending a significant amount of time away from home, it can be wise to discreetly inform teachers or a school guidance counselor of the divorce. Each child may handle their parents’ divorce in different ways, but having a second line of defense at school can help you stay updated on their progress when they are away from home.

Update Contact Information.

If both parents have custodial rights, make sure all applicable people at the school have contact information and permission to contact both parents. It is important for the child that both parents are actively involved in their academic life, including being notified of academic progress and special events/assemblies.  Having both parents on file with the school prevents problems from arising if one parent forgets to inform the other, however innocently, of various updates.

Maintain a Routine.

While you and your ex may not be on the best terms right now, it is important to keep up the appearance of civility (whenever possible) for the children’s sake. While a divorce is a big change for children, it can be much smoother if parents communicate and maintain tried and true routines. For example, while living arrangements are changing and a child may be spending time at two different residences throughout the week, keeping routines the same may make for an easier transition. This can include maintaining regular “rules” regarding homework, TV/Computer usage and bedtime.

When all else fails, use technology.

If the divorce is contentious or there are deep rooted feelings of anger/sadness that make communication difficult, coming up with an organized system using technology may be a smart move. Using Google calendar or another online repository to communicate and keep track of schedules, activities, schoolwork, etc. can be a great way to stay on track if communication is difficult. School-related finances can be handled in a similar way, by keeping track of expenses online so that there is less contention over financial responsibility.