Back to School In Two Households
By Juliet Marciano, M.D.
As the summer starts to wind down, it’s time to think about the return to school.
If your children are having their first experiences with spending time in two households, you may be facing some new transitions this year. Also, the ever-changing Covid-19 situation can add even more challenges to your Back-to-School experience.
There are several things you can do now to make your children’s return to school easier this year.
Start a few weeks before school resumes to ease back into a school year sleep schedule. If your children have more difficulty with transitions, the last week of summer vacation should be low-key and relaxing, more of a staycation than a vacation away from home.
If you’re in a new school, a new home, or both, practice the commute or confirm the bus schedule and bus stop information ahead of time.
Many families have found that the best way to get out of the house on time in the morning is to start and pack up the night before!
Figure out a way to ease the morning routine- have a designated place for backpacks, lunch boxes, school papers and correspondence, and school supplies. Children can benefit from having a list of what’s needed that day, and for some children, a visual picture chart of what to pack for the day will be helpful.
If you are just getting used to two households, or your family’s situation demands it, you may consider having two sets of textbooks, gym clothes, or sports equipment to lessen the likelihood of being unprepared. There will be plenty of time for your children to “learn responsibility” later. Adding the need to remember “what’s at whose house” may be more than some children can handle when they’re first transitioning to a new school year in two households. (This is something that you can work on together over time).
Always Check the Calendar
While a digital calendar is great for convenience and ease of reference and access, many children and families need a physical calendar displayed prominently, showing “who is where when”, what equipment needs to go to school that day, what appointments, lessons, sports practices, or other responsibilities are scheduled, and who will be doing school drop-offs and pick-ups. As soon as you become aware of an event, add it to the calendar and pass on the information to anyone who needs to know.
Have Clear Communication
Don’t assume that anyone knows anything unless it has been discussed and confirmed! Clear communication with co-parents and children regarding pick-ups, drop-offs, after school appointments, and responsibilities will lessen the likelihood of mix-ups. Having a “co-parent meeting” or phone call before school begins is a great way to set the stage for a smoother transition for your children. Be clear in your communication with your co-parent and avoid putting your child in the middle.
Spread the Word and Stay Connected
Inform teachers, guidance counselors, coaches, and other important adults about your new family situation. If possible, both parents should attend conferences, back to school night, and school events. Sometimes, especially early in the divorce process or if things get particularly “stressful”, being together in the same room with your co-parent can be challenging. If you do feel that way, respect that boundary, and explore what’s going on with you and your feelings. There may be a way to get past this over time and with help—especially if this is something that is important to your child—but giving yourself grace and compassion during your own period of transition is appropriate.
Address Your Child’s Concerns
Your children may be worried about the change in routine—wondering if someone will forget to pick them up; will they get in trouble if they forget something at the other parent’s house; how will they function without “all their stuff”; and how hard will it be to be missing their pet, their old neighborhood, and their friends, (not to mention one parent when they are with the other one). Keep the lines of communication open. Let your children voice their concerns and share their feelings with you. Validate their experiences and brainstorm together to think of ways to make the transition and the experience easier for them.
What about Covid?
Some children and parents are concerned and anxious about the ever-changing news regarding Covid-19 and the return to the classroom. These certainly are challenging times. Yet, there are measures you can take to help your children.
- Listen and validate their concerns without “feeding into their fears.” It’s important to acknowledge how strange it may seem now that things are different. Reassure them that these changes are being made based on current information on how to proceed safely. Explore this area with your children to try to learn more about what their concerns are. Then, you will be able to better address them.
- When you have facts, share them. At this point, there is much more information about how the disease spreads, who is most at risk, and how to protect yourself when out in the world. Reassure your children with any facts that you can offer without discounting their concerns.
- Limit the amount of stressful background “chatter” that many homes are subject to. Don’t keep the TV on with the constant “Breaking News Bulletins”! Don’t let your young children overhear any heated disagreements or derogatory comments about the recommendations, restrictions, or facts as they become available. It’s confusing for children when they are expected to act on “knowledge” they have been led to distrust. When developmentally appropriate, you can share more information and include them in conversations to help them learn how to be informed and discerning citizens.
- Discuss with your co-parent any disagreements you have regarding Covid issues. Try to hear each other out and come up with a plan that feels right for your family and doesn’t cause added stress to your children.
With preparation and patience, you can help your children have a successful start to the school year!
To contact Juliet Marciano, MD Tel: 267-420-0661 Email: email@example.com
As a Parent Coach and Pediatrician, Juliet has witnessed the ongoing suffering that divorce can cause to children and families when parents don’t have access to the guidance and support they need. Now retired from practicing medicine, Juliet coaches parents of children with various special needs and extra needs. As a member of the Vesta collaborative team that helps parents through every stage of the divorce process, she works with parents and helps them not only minimize the negative effects of divorce on their family but also gather the information and develop the skills they need to lead their family to thrive.
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