A new school year is often a mix of excitement and anticipation for your children (and their parents!). They will be meeting new teachers, making friends with new classmates, and adjusting to a different routine. This transition can also be a source of anxiety or stress and – if the new school year is coming on the heels of divorce – your children may also be coping with all of the changes that entails.
If this sounds familiar, here are some suggestions which may go a long way toward easing the transition and helping your children succeed in the upcoming school year.
Create structure: Structure starts with making sure your children know where they are staying each night and knowing in advance which parent will be dropping them off at school and which parent will be picking them up. Once you have a schedule, it is important to hold to that schedule as closely as possible. It also helps for parents to create a pre-bedtime and morning routine for their children – starting a few weeks before the beginning of the new school year, so everyone can get used to it.
Get on the same page: A shared online calendar is a great way to keep track of all the school holidays, appointments, and extracurricular activities that come with busy children. You can also put a calendar in your kitchen and color code the days so your children can easily see which days they are spending with each parent.
Meet the teachers: It’s a great idea for both parents – together, if possible – to meet your children’s teachers at the start of the year. It helps you become familiar with the teachers’ expectations, and shows unified support for your children’s success. If it’s a new divorce, and you’re concerned about what’s happening emotionally with your children, teachers can help keep you informed.
Stay informed: Take responsibility for making sure your child’s school has all of your contact information and ask that the school and your child’s teachers send both parents duplicate copies of school materials, handouts and report cards. This will minimize any mixed messages or loss of information and will help keep you directly informed of what is happening at your child’s school (the same goes for extracurricular activities).
Stay involved: There’s a recent study out of Australia, building on 15 years of research, showing that parental engagement – which includes reading to young children, helping children set educational goals, and encouraging good study habits – helps children become better students. While divorce does tax a parent’s time and resources, keeping parental engagement going is an essential step in helping children – and parents – through the divorce.