Summer is over — well, technically, the actual season is not but the time period we typically call ‘summer’ because kids have off school, is. You may be one of many parents who were able to take their kids on vacation this year. You may also be among those who encountered family challenges during summer break. Perhaps a loved one passed away or you and your spouse got divorced. If the latter is a reality in your life, you might be very worried about back to school issues.
You and your ex hopefully were able to settle your divorce in an amicable fashion. While the proceedings are over, the co-parenting work is just beginning. Just remember that the highest priority is to keep your kids’ best interests in mind. You might have to repeat that to yourself in the bathroom mirror a ba-jillion times this year.
Back to school tip number 1
Adult issues often trickle over into children’s lives. Your kids’ friends might have a lot of questions when they hear that you divorced — and they will hear; trust me. You can help your children prepare for the back to school barrage of questions by letting them know they can politely decline to answer them if they so choose. You can suggest a few acceptable responses, such as, “I’d rather not talk about my parents’ private lives, ” or “Yes, they divorced but that is all I wish to say about it.”
Tip number 2 for back to school co-parenting
You might not be thrilled about the idea of seeing your ex on a regular basis. After all, if you wanted to do that, you might still be married. However, if it is at all plausible, (meaning, you can get be in the same room for an hour or so without pummeling each other) it’s a good idea to show up at school at the same time for certain events. Is there a special back to school night? It would likely mean a lot to your kids if both parents were there.
What about parent/teacher conferences or a school play or chorus recital? On the inside, you might be thinking of a thousand reasons why you’d rather be anywhere than sitting next to your ex in a classroom or auditorium. On the outside, if your kids witness your willingness to co-exist peacefully for their sake, everyone wins!
Every back to school event need not be attended together
During the normal course of events in your child’s every school day, it’s improbable to expect both parents to be there at all times. One of you might pick up the kids and the other might drop them off. If a teacher needs to send a note home, it is logical to send it to the custodial parent. To avoid confusion (and disagreements) you can create a school year calendar using online tools.
This way, there’s no question as to who should be where at what time. It’s still no guarantee that problems won’t arise at some point, especially if someone isn’t cooperating. (Remember that saying to repeat in your bathroom mirror?) Even the best back to school co-parenting plans are not foolproof. If you stay closely connected to your child’s teachers, it helps. Also, don’t let problem issues linger. It’s better to acknowledge the problem and try to negotiate a fair and agreeable solution.
Otherwise, a simmering ember can suddenly and unexpectedly erupt into an all-out forest fire, metaphorically speaking, of course.
Divorce need not ruin your children’s back to school time
Divorce definitely disrupts children’s lives but it doesn’t necessarily have to ruin them. The back to school season can still be exciting and joyful, if you and your ex remember what (or who) is most important.
If you feel ill-equipped to resolve a particular matter, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. School counselors, trusted friends and family members can provide guidance and encouragement. Community support groups and legal advocates are great assets to have on hand too, as you and your kids navigate your first back to school season after divorce.
Pay it forward
Here at Hot Mess Press, we pride ourselves on being regular people with regular lives who love to encourage other regular people with regular lives. That said, if you have a back to school tip that was especially helpful to your family after divorce, please share it in the comments.
Whether your tip is a suggestion to do something or to avoid something, it’s all about supporting each other and helping every family to “do them” as best they can.