Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back To School Tips For Divorced Parents

Back to school is hard for kids who come from broken homes. Meet the teacher nights prior to school starting can be stressful as often custody summer arrangements sometimes interfere. This year I met my son's new teacher alone for the first time. My sons were still visiting their dad for the summer. They spend extra time with him in the summer to compensate for missed time during the school year week. Most children from divorced homes do spend long periods of time during the summer with their non-custodial parent. Feelings of guilt crept up as I went to meet the teacher, as it is obvious that my family is now somewhat dysfunctional. Later in the week, one of my dear friends called me who is also is a similar situation but located in another state. We used to teach together and we became close friends due to our numerous collaborative projects. When she called me, she began describing her meet the teacher experience, which was very similar to mine. As we began commiserating on how unfortunate it was for both of our kids, I realized that this was possibly the "norm". With more than half of US children coming from broken homes, we realized that many times public school structures often choose  a one day or time fits all approach to introduce the teacher. As a 17 year public school educator and advocate, this issue never really occurred to me until now. Perhaps this contributes to a lack of parent involvement.

This month I have spent much time reading 4 books on the subject of coparenting and divorce effects on children. It is comforting that there are many of us coparenting households in the US.  This time of the year is rough on single households. How am I preparing?

  1. Limit Confusion: Kids are often confused and things get lost in the shuffle. Set up a checklist or purchase duplicates to ease the stress. Organization is key.
  2. Plan Financial Resources: Single families really have to plan to meet the extra costs that Back to School bring. I am very fortunate and grateful to have resources, but I think of all of the families with single parents working 2-3 jobs to make ends meet. To purchase school supplies for my two children, excluding lunch boxes and backpacks, was a little over $80.00 this summer. Add the cost of backpacks, lunch boxes, gym clothes, school clothes, PTO costs, instruments, lessons, and activities it becomes quickly obvious that this is an issue facing many.
  3. Connect: Set aside a lot of time to be emotionally available for your kids. Many may need counseling to transition. Listen and give them time to process. Limit activities maybe during this time to make time to connect.
  4. Be Proactive: Understand that it is important to be proactive in noticing how your child is dealing with issues. Seek help ahead of time in case professional help is needed and always speak about the other parent in a loving way. Allow the child to contact the other parent and be flexible. It is important to put your child in the center of everything during this time to ease tension and stress. 

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