Navigating Back-to-School When You’re Divorced

Navigating Back-to-School When You’re Divorced

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There are events in a child’s life that are important, and it doesn’t matter whose day it is. Like the first day of school.

So long as there isn’t a court order prohibiting it, both parents can and should be there to support their child, regardless of Parenting Time designations.

A Parenting Time schedule doesn’t exclude either parent from their child’s special events. It could be a soccer match, a choir concert, a dance recital, or the first day of school. If they want to be there, they can and should.

(The only exception to this would be in the event of a Personal Protection Order (PPO), or “no contact order,” that orders a parent to not be in the presence of the other parent or the child.)

But different parents have different perspectives.

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When it comes to back-to-school, it’s important that divorced parents be on the same page to best support their children. Even if one parent holds the bulk of planning!

What a lot of parents don’t think about is the costs involved in going back to school. New clothing, books, notebooks. School supplies can be quite expensive. Even in less privileged areas, there are resources parents need to be aware of to acquire the items their children need for school.

Children also need guidance to transition from the freedom of summer, often with later bedtimes and different daily schedules, back to the routine of the academic year. It’s important for parents to be on the same page to make all the back-to-school preparations go smoothly.

Who will acquire the school supplies?

Will you share costs?

Will you both honor a transitional model to ease bedtime earlier?

For school supplies, it varies as to how things get done – some parents go together, some alternate years of responsibility, and in other families, one parent acquires everything, and the other parent reimburses for half the expenses.

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The focus should always be on what do the kids need? And, not just materially but emotionally from their parents as well.

We can’t stress enough looking at your children’s needs and how you can make back-to-school smooth and easy for them.

Maybe you step back from something because it’s not worth the fight. If the child has anxiety about returning to school, make sure the other parent knows about it, so you can both support the child. Communicate that information. And if you are the parent receiving that information, respond to your co-parent. Show appreciation and share ideas for how to help them.

When you’re communicating with your co-parent, you know how they respond to you, so watch your wording so what you have to share really gets through for the benefit of the children.

Use questions instead of directives. You’ll get further for the benefit of your child.

It’s the hardest thing to sometimes step back and put your desires and feelings aside to benefit your child or meet your child’s needs.

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We always say, “I would do anything for my kids.” But would you? Do you?

When it comes to back-to-school, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed because there is so much to get done; it’s easy to feel angry or resentful because of your co-parent’s lack of involvement or assistance. It’s also easy to feel competitive with your co-parent, to want to edge them out and be the only one accompanying your son or daughter to school. You might feel you’re losing out if you’re not involved with something.

But all of these emotions are about you, not at all about your child.

“The best interests of my child” is not always where a parent’s heart leads. We are all human, and it’s natural to feel an array of emotions at the beginning of a new school year.

But be the mature one. Recognize your emotions, where you feel it in your body, and sit with it. Try to put it in a box, and make your child your priority. Deal with your feelings on an adult level in an adult way. It’s hard, but this is the proof of good parenting.

Back-To-School: Taking Stock

Back-To-School: Taking Stock

Back-To-School: Taking Stock

As kids return to school this fall, it may be a good time to evaluate how your parenting time schedule and structure is working. How’s the co-parenting relationship weathering this seasonal and scheduling change?

While a Judgment of Divorce or Parenting Time Order renders a certain schedule or structure to co-parenting, both parents are the ultimate architects of their family, so if it’s not working, you can decide together to make changes if you both agree.

It’s a good idea to review parenting time schedules periodically, to determine if the existing plan best fits your children’s needs.

The mark of great co-parenting is being flexible enough to accommodate your children’s needs from year to year, season to season.

A great way to determine what is best for your children is to assess how the current parenting schedule worked for them last school year.

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Switching schools, moving up to middle school or high school, even taking on a new team sport can mean new start and end times, new extracurricular activities, new homework demands and a new practice schedule, all of which could call for a different overnight situation to guarantee students’ success.

Parents need to talk to one another. Just because your marriage ended doesn’t mean your co-parenting ended. It never does! You always want to keep your eye on what is truly best for the kids. And hopefully, as time passes, divorced spouses can heal the anger and wounds of the divorce and start to respect one another enough to work together collegially.

A strong parent needs to be ok with switching things up if it’s better for the kids. If one parent lives closer to a new school, consider arranging for the kids to stay with that parent on school nights.

To make sure a parent doesn’t lose out on time with the kids, alter school breaks or weekend time, or even holiday distribution, to even it out. The sky’s the limit when it comes to parenting time possibilities. Whatever you can dream up and live with, you can do. And if you’re in agreement, the kids will handle any changes well.

Some children do better sleeping in the same bed every night. It’s a strong parent who can agree to that, even if it means less overnight time with that child for a while. Parenting success comes from quality of time together, not quantity. And if you’re truly working together, you can figure out additional time somewhere else to even things out.

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