Making Decisions About Education for Separated or Divorced Families
When parents separate, we are tasked with creating a parenting plan which describes in essence how parents will co-parent into the future.
One of the main topics within any parenting plan is decision-making responsibilities. Parents will typically specify either that one parent has sole decision-making responsibility, or that the parents will have joint decision-making responsibilities for the children.
However the decision-making responsibilities are allocated between the parents, I recommend that there be clear direction in any parenting plan as to how educational decisions will be made with respect to the children.
Check out our Interview Series video with Thabatta Mizrahi, an educator with more tips for supporting your children educationally after separation or divorce.
Communication – Parent/School
First let’s talk about communication between the school and the family.
- Who will be the primary liaison between the school and the family? Will it be one parent or both parents?
- How does the school contact the parents? Is there an email address and phone number on file for each parent?
Schools deal with so many families each year, and given that there are lots of families who are either going through separation or divorce or who have already separated or divorced, it’s important that the school know the parents’ expectations of how the communication will go between school and family.
Types of eduacation decisions
Next, let’s consider what kind of education decisions are going to be made jointly between the parties, and what decisions will be made by one parent alone? If one parent makes the decision, is the other parent to be consulted about the decision, or is the other parent simply to be informed of the decision once it’s been made? Or are all the decisions to be made jointly?
The more clarity that you can give to the school as to the communication expectations and how decisions will be made with respect to your child or children, the better. They won’t know unless you tell them.
Ideas for How to Best Support your Children’s Education as a Two-Home Family
The most important thing that parents can do is to keep an open line of communication between the parents and the school.
The school is there to support your child in their growth, development, educational pursuits, and more. The more that they are aware of the situation at home, and some of the stresses that the children may be going through outside of school, the more that the school can use the daytime hours to support your children.
If educators know that for example there’s a lot of conflict in the home, or that the children are trying to get into a new routine moving from mom’s house to dad’s house and back again, or that the children are having difficulty adapting to their new two-home life, then the educators are in a better position to support your children in the way that they need during the school day.
By contrast, if educators don’t know what’s happening on the home front for your children, then they have a more difficult time understanding what’s happening for your child, and may not know how to best support them.
Recommendations for Communciation with Your Children’s Educators
At the very root, I always recommend that parents and educators work together as a team with the common goal of supporting the children educationally.
It depends on the situation as to what that will look like for your particular family. For some families, that may mean a weekly email or in-person meetings with various educators at certain intervals. There won’t be a one-size-fits-all situation for any family. The most important thing that parents can do, in my opinion, is to open up the dialogue between the educators and the parents so that both together can come up with the best solutions possible based on how each of your children is coping.
Dealing with Changes to the Primary School Liaison
Very often where the children are in a one household family, one parent will often take the lead as far as communicating with the school and any issues that arise from that.
However, when there’s a separation or divorce, quite often the roles of the parents will shift such that a parent who has not been as involved in the past may want to become more involved following the separation or divorce.
It is important where possible, that the parents have an open discussion as to how the communication between the parents and the school will occur in the future. The last thing that you want to occur is for the school to be confused as to which parent they should be communicating with or whether all communication should be joint to both parents. Where possible, the more clarity you can provide to the school, the easier the dialogue will be, And the more that the children will be supported educationally.
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