Back to school is stressful for children and parents alike but can be even more stressful when there is a divorce in the works or a recent divorce. Even if joint custody has worked throughout the summer, parents may worry about how it will work once school starts.
While some children get excited for school to start, others feel anxious or depressed that summer is over. For children with parents going through a divorce or recently divorced, this can create even more anxiety about returning to school. Children may feel uncertain about telling their friends and teachers about their parents’ split.
Whether you and your spouse are in the middle of a divorce or have just made it through, back-to-school time can create many unexpected issues. If both parents are open to discussing some of the potential problems, navigating back-to-school matters will get easier.
Below are some tips that can help parents and children get through back-to-school in the best way possible.
- Talk to your child’s teacher(s) about the divorce. This alerts teachers to possible reasons for misbehavior or acting out, resulting in more understanding and compassion from the teacher.
- Discuss the issue with your child. Help your child develop answers for their friends if they get asked about the situation.
- Agree to open communication. Make a commitment with the child’s other parent that there will be open communication between the two of you for the child. This means always sharing information about the child’s activities, grades, etc.
- Set up a shared family calendar online. You can include such issues as extracurricular events or sports practices, doctor appointments, school photo days, homework or project deadlines, teacher-parent conferences, and much more.
- Discuss school supplies with the other parent. Have a list of what the child needs, then decide which parent purchases each item (with the child’s input).
- Agree to keep the backpack with the child. Both parents must agree to be vigilant about the fact that the backpack stays with the child. This prevents last-minute trips to the other parent’s house to pick up the backpack because it has all essential school information inside.
- Come together for the first day of school. If possible, drop off your child together on the first day of school—especially if the child is still in elementary or middle school.
- Have a thorough conversation about homework. Make sure the homework rules are the same, no matter which parent the child is with. If a school project is involved, make sure both parents discuss it (preferably together) with the child to determine who is responsible for what. One parent could buy the supplies while the other helped with the project, or responsibility can get portioned out in any way that works for your family. You don’t want to pick up your child on Sunday afternoon only to find out they have a project due Monday morning.
- Have an inclement weather plan in place. Plan out what will happen during inclement weather if the school shuts down. Do this at the beginning of the school year and if you are the parent with a more flexible work schedule—be flexible.
- Attend parent-teacher conferences together. Try to attend teacher-parent conferences together unless you and your ex simply cannot be in the same room. This keeps one parent from having to relay all the relevant information and can give parents talking points that will benefit the child.
- Share school information. No matter how you feel about your ex and the divorce, commit to sharing information with them regarding the child. If one parent cannot attend the child’s school play, take photos and email them to the other parent.
- Share health information. Share any critical health information about the child immediately. If your child’s teacher calls you to tell you they found pink eye in four children in your child’s class, don’t wait to call your ex to let them know. This allows both parents to be on the lookout for symptoms and take extra precautions to prevent a health issue from spreading.
- Plan for illness. Have a plan in place in case one parent is ill, or must be away for work, so the child is never left wondering who will take them to school or pick them up from an activity.
If you and your ex cannot get into the groove of back-to-school, cut yourself some slack. Try to put aside your differences and focus on your child. It can also be helpful to speak to your Atlanta family law attorney to get some advice for this new situation.
Contact Our Atlanta Family Law Attorneys
At Hobson & Hobson, P.C., our Atlanta divorce and child custody attorneys know how challenging co-parenting can be, especially when dealing with back-to-school issues. When you meet with our lawyers, we will help you and your ex draft a parenting plan that helps you do what is best for your children all throughout the year. Our attorneys can meet with you to discuss your family issues and set up a plan to protect and safeguard your future.
Attorney Sarah Hobson at Hobson and Hobson, P.C. are powerful advocates for those who fight for better futures for those going through divorce and custody law matters.