By Katie Davis
Parents know that back-to-school time can be quite an eventful time. Activities including buying new books and and school supplies, getting class schedules or carpools organized and altogether just ensuring that children are ready to go back to class.
Add divorce to that recipe, and things can be even more hectic. Newly divorced and single parents may wonder what the best method for preparing kids for school amid new family arrangements may be.
Read through these tips for preparing both you and your kids to get back to school with post-divorce changes.
1) Let the school know – One of the first things newly divorced parents can do for their child or children is to inform the school about family changes. Administrators, school counselors and teachers who will be working with the children or responsible for them should know what’s going on.
School counselors can certainly be a good resource for divorced families as well and provide a safe space where kids can open up and speak about divorce is impacting them.
Columnist Myra Fleischer writes on this in a blog post for The Washington Times. While Fleischer mentions that it’s important for teachers and school personnel to know what’s going on in kids’ lives, she reminds parents that they should not share actual details of the divorce.
2) Make routines & transitions simple – If possible, put specific divorce issues on hold while mapping out a plan with your ex-spouse for a school routine.
Dr. Tina Tessina, a Ph.D., author and motivational speaker, reminds newly divorced parents that it’s important to make “mindful transitions.”
She tells parents that, while they should certainly prepare their kids for going home with the other parent after school, they shouldn’t be overly emotional or make their children upset. Telling them, “I love you,” making sure they have what they need for that period of time and then getting them there is what’s needed.
3) Communicate and be civil – While speaking with one’s ex may be the last thing someone wants to do, coming together in some fashion to at least map out a plan for the school year is important for the children.
Whether you just send emails, make a phone call or actually discuss this issue in person, it’s vital to know which parent will help with homework, who wants to go to school meetings and how schedules for extracurriculars or sports will work.
“Agree in writing, if it comes to that, whom the teacher can depend on for lunch money, signed forms, field trips, conferences and updates,” suggests Stacey Ross, a teacher and counselor in San Diego, California.
4) Ask your children how they feel, and listen – During this change in their lives, kids can be worried about telling their friends about what’s going on or that they’re parents have gotten divorced. They may or may not know how to communicate their emotions about these topics while in the classroom.
Clinical psychiatrist, business advisor, consultant and trainer Dr. Mark Goulston discusses this with divorce360.com, pointing out to divorced or newly split parents that “the more you want to talk, the more you need to listen.”
He reinforces the importance of creating situations in which kids feel safe and free to talk openly, suggesting that the drive home after school is an ideal setting.
Parents often learn quite a lot about how their children are coping with divorce simply from letting them speak their minds. This will also give divorced parents a better idea for how to mentally, physically and emotionally prepare their children for changes in and out of school.