Now that the July 4th holiday is over, it signals to me that half the summer is over. It wasn’t like this when I was in school, where we didn’t return until after Labor Day. But now, July 4th seems to be summer’s midpoint. With a new school year approaching, I’d like to offer some tips to newly-divorced readers who have children about to head back to school.
We all remember the anxiety of starting a new school year. Adding divorce and two households instead of one results in compounded anxiety for children. Parents must find ways to manage the routines of homework and after-school activities with an ex spouse in order to bring structure to their children’s lives. To help children ease into a new school year, divorced parents should develop a shared School Parenting Plan.
First, start a plan together that deals exclusively with the school year. Simply agreeing to develop this plan is the first step, since it shows that you both value your child’s academic performance, and can come to agreement on school-related matters.
Second, determine before school starts how you, as parents, will deal with the school. Prepare the school and teachers with information about your new situations. Will both parents attend parent-teacher conferences? Will you attend all meetings related to your child together? Will you request separate conferences and meetings? Who will be dropping off and picking up your children if they don’t ride the bus? Will stepparents attend meetings and conferences?
Third, develop terms and conditions with school work. Be as specific as possible. Will one parent assume responsibility for daily homework? Will the other parent assume responsibility for larger assignments, research projects, the science fair, etc.? What does “assuming responsibility” mean—the parent will work with the child, know what the school expects, help the child meet deadlines? Will one parent be responsible for one child, the other parent responsible for another child?
Fourth, address parental responsibility with after-school activities and sports. Will one parent be responsible for taking the kids to practices, the other parent to games? Or one parent with the first four weeks of responsibility, the other parent will be responsible for the last four weeks of a sports season? Mom is responsible for activities on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays, while Dad is responsible for Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays? What about financial considerations—who will be paying for what?
Fifth, sync your routines as much as possible, and keep a shared calendar. Try to set the same rules around homework, dinner and bedtime so going from the routine at Mom’s house to Dad’s house is more predictable. A shared calendar, such as Google Calendar, means that everyone has the same expectations and knowledge regarding everyone’s school schedule.
Parents who work together on a shared School Parenting Plan ensure a more stress-free and seamless transition for their kids from summer to the new school year. Do you want to develop a shared school parenting plan? Do you have a plan that has worked well? If you have any questions regarding school parenting plans, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.