Tips for a Successful “Back to School” After Separation or Divorce
It’s all in the preparation. It will either be a successful back-to-school experience for the kiddos or it’ll be a stressful time. Here’s some ideas for how to best prepare your children for a great start to the school year!
Check out our Interview Series video with Thabbata Mizrahi for tips on how to positively liaise with your school administrators, teachers, and other educational professionals,
What can parents do to prepare for the start of the school year?
First, get involved with your kids’ preparation for school, with things like buying school supplies and planning activities.
As for buying school supplies – for so many kids, preparing their supplies for the upcoming year is meaningful and exciting. Make a plan in advance with your co-parent as to whether or how the school supplies costs will be shared, and who will do the purchasing of which items. By planning this in advance, it will help to keep the experience positive for the children, and set them up for a solid start to the year.
If not already done prior to the start of the school year, registration for extra-curricular activities will get underway quickly in the Fall. You and your co-parent will need to have conversations about whether there will need to be any changes to the children’s activities they may have become accustomed to – there may be new considerations relating to cost, or even new time constraints living in two homes. If you can, show a united front by talking with the kids together as co-parents about the plan for activity registration.
Second, now that summer is coming to a conclusion, co-parents will want to have a look over the school calendar and make any adjustments necessary to the parenting schedule. I always recommend to families I work with that they have a co-parent planning meeting a few times a year, and one of those times is typically around the back to school time.
I love technology, and using a shared calendar that is on your cell phone is my view of the most effective way to keep updated with child scheduling. You can input the school calendar straight into your device, and both parents have it at their finger tips. This allows for easy scheduling of kids’ school days, days off, and activities.
Once the school year is underway, what can parents do to ensure that their children are supported educationally?
First, talk with the school supports – the news of the separation or divorce may not have reached the teachers or the administrators yet. It’s important that they know what’s happening at home for your children, so that they can monitor your children during the school day, and note any changes in them.
Next, show solidarity as parents – where there’s issues that arise for your children with their education or more generally at school, it’s best if you can both be there for them in whatever way they need. If there’s an issue that arises at school, make sure both parents know about it. If there’s a need to meet with the school, schedule it when both parents can attend. Irrespective of how you feel about your co-parent, you can both be there to support your children’s education.
And finally, be involved – there will be various ways you can get involved depending on your children’s grade. There’s things like parent-teacher interviews, field trips, class projects, getting signed up for the school and classroom newsletters, and homework – have a pulse on what’s happening so that you can make sure that they’re excelling educationally, or intervene if they’re struggling.
Especially if the separation or divorce is new to the family, how can parents help their children cope emotionally in their return to school?
Just like talking to the teachers and the administrators can help you to support your children educationally, it will also help to prepare them to talk with your children or to hear their stories.
When kids first get back into school, they’ll be talking about their summer vacation with their peers and sometimes they will even talk about it as a class – talk to your children about what they would want people to know about what they’re going through.
You can help them to prepare for how open they want to be about their situation – some kids talk openly, and others are very private. Figure out their comfort level with talking about their new family situation, and help them to rehearse what they would say either when asked about it, or when they choose to volunteer information.
Even preparing them to answer common questions that they may be asked, could be helpful – such as:
- Where are you living?
- How are you feeling?
- How often do you see each of your parents?
- Do you have to move away?
At the end of the day, it’s important to ensure that your kids have someone they can talk to – whether it’s a parent, or another family member, or even a counsellor – each child is different in who they will want to open up to about their feelings, but whoever that may be it’s important to be mindful of getting them in front of that listening ear.