Back to School
By Rita Morris
Ice cream trucks, beach days, kickball, and days at camp, ahhh… the lazy, hazy days of summer. I don’t know about you, but summer has flown by and soon the school bells will be ringing again and they’ll be off to another year of reading, writing, and arithmetic! Back-to-school time is often bittersweet for both kids and parents. Gone are relaxed mornings, weeknight sleepovers, and impromptu day trips. At the same time, we are no longer patching together childcare, fretting over too much screen time, and listening to sibling squabbles all day. Instead, we all tackle back-to-school supply lists, the anxiety over new teachers, and a return to academic demands. However, back to school can be a bit more challenging for divorced parents.
For many of us who co-parent school-aged kids, the sight of backpacks, new sneakers, and school buses can signal another round of conflicts over communication with teachers. Or maybe it’s the dirty tactics to change contact information on the emergency call list, anguish over homework, permission slips, and even lunch money.
If you would like to start the school year off on a better foot, read on.
First, try to set the tone for open communication, starting with the first Open House or letter sent home from school. If you want information shared with you, sometimes you have to show how willing you are to be fair and transparent. Make a copy, take a picture, or at least share the pertinent details regarding your child’s schedule, school fees, school supply list, and any other important information received for your child. Sadly, this does not guarantee that your ex will also keep an open book, but at least no one can say that you’re anything but cooperative and child-centered.
Many of the problems centered around divorce and school are related to breakdowns in communication. Either one parent is not as organized or efficient about processing and passing along information, or may refuse to do so out of spite. We never want to be the parent in a position to be accused of withholding information, so it’s important to do our part to set our children up for success by having two parents who can support them through school.
Some co-parents have found success using a neutral app as a means to share schedules and other information. Using this digital form of communication, there is no room for the exchange of insults, or unnecessary information, while at the same time offering documentation that you have shared information appropriately and in a timely fashion. If your child is in a school district that only allows for one email, you can try setting up a shared email only for this purpose. In this way, you are both getting the information without having to pass it along yourself.
Your parenting plan is your first point of reference for who is responsible for what.
If you are in need of clarification, this is where you want to go. This document was carefully prepared and agreed to by both parties, know what it says and stick to that! Who pays for school supplies, extracurricular activities, and school lunch? Whose address is used to register the kids for school (and who will likely receive all official notifications from the school)? Are you both allowed full contact and the right to be involved in decision-making?
Make Sure The School Is Familiar With Your Divorce Arrangement
Communication with schools is always important, especially when things are complex. The school doesn’t need details of the divorce, and school personnel do not need to be in the middle of petty arguments. However, it is important for teachers and administrators to be aware of special transportation arrangements, custody, and the fact that children may live and travel between two homes on a regular basis. If your child is struggling with the divorce, and/or this is a new situation for your family, communicate this with pertinent school personnel. Teachers, guidance counselors, etc., can be wonderful sources of support for our children.
It can’t hurt to introduce new staff to your situation or refresh the minds of previous ones with a copy of your plan or a brief explanation of the dynamics. This way, teachers will know to ask which parent the child is with when searching for missing work or needing to discuss daily issues relevant to each home, and can avoid making mistakes caused by misinformation or making assumptions.
Don’t Sweat What You Can’t Control
Remember that we all have our own parenting styles. To an organized parent, it can be incredibly frustrating to see your child miss work and not follow a consistent routine, such as homework and bedtime routines for example. Always remember this— at the top of the list is the emotional and physical safety of our children. If you feel they are safe, let the other stuff go, for your own good and that of your child. Things may be different in your co-parents’ home, but different doesn’t have to be perceived as negative. Your kids may have an inconsistent bedtime, but it’s really ok! We can’t control everything, nor do we want to. Remember that by learning to adapt to different expectations, kids are also learning to be flexible, and manage things in different ways. These are powerful life lessons.
As Always, Keep Kids Out Of The Middle!
The only drama kids should be exposed to at school is the spring musical. The last thing any child wants is to have parents who bicker in the stands at the basketball game or drive the teacher insane demanding separate parent-teacher conferences or complaining about their ex. We may have divorced our ex, but we will remain connected to them as parents of our children for many more years. School is just one of those places where we need to hold it together and remain civil and composed for the dignity and emotional stability of our child.
Double Is Not Always Better
In some cases, having duplicate letters and other announcements sent home for each parent can be really helpful, but it’s not always possible. As kids become older, more of the responsibility will fall on their shoulders to remember to share information and keep their academic life organized. Parents can request for contact to be made to two separate phone numbers or copied letters, but teachers are very busy and won’t always have the time or remember to do so. When frustrations mount, just remember, we’re all human and are trying to do the best we can.
Some parents, especially those who do not get along well, may request separate meetings, etc. because of their divorce. Your child’s teacher may not be able to accommodate and/or may feel that one meeting serves the purpose best to make sure everyone hears the same information and is on the same page. It’s not always pleasant, but it is important for children to see that their parents can work together and be unified in wanting what’s best for them.
There’s no doubt that this school year will be full of challenges, triumphs, and memories. Now is the perfect time to embark on this adventure with your child- and even your ex. by having a solid game plan and a positive frame of mind. Just as kids mature and grow in their skills as they advance from one grade to the next, most co-parents also get better at coordinating and working together for the sake of their children. Good luck with your back-to-school adventure!
To contact Rita Morris Tel: 781-492-6082 Email: email@example.com
As a mom of two kids with ADHD and anxiety, Rita struggled on this journey of motherhood. It is her struggle that inspires her learning, and her learning inspires her coaching. Rita has always believed that her children are her greatest teachers.
Rita has a master’s degree in Education, is a Certified Life Coach, and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. The majority of her coaching clients are parents of complex kids, kids with ADHD, anxiety, etc. Before Rita came to understand the impact of these things on her own kids, she was full of fear and worry, and felt she was so unprepared for this challenge. Given this. Rita went on a mission to educate herself so that she could parent her kids to the best of her ability. This knowledge was so powerful that Rita began to investigate the professional possibilities, did some training, and launched her Parent Coaching career.
On a more personal note, Rita is a Pilates lover, audiobook junkie, an avid crafter, and could shop for days! Above all else, Rita adores being with her family and friends.
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