Back to School:The Juggle Between Homes
The new school year is underway; you’ve purchased the back-to-school clothes, supplies, completed forms, & have the timetable. You've done it all! Or have you?
If you are adjusting to being newly separated, there are unique challenges you may be facing as it relates to helping your children transition back to school. By taking a few proactive measures, you can help make this transition a smooth one for all. With more and more children living in ‘shared parenting arrangements’ – that is, the child living in two houses and spending some school nights with each parent - the need to take these steps is all the more important. As a former teacher, on average 1/3 of my students lived in different houses. Some had to also adjust to being in a new school as well. Their success at school had less to do with the fact that their parents separated and more to do with how their parents handled the separation.
Consider these tips as a way to help your children if you have recently separated.
1. Be sure to tell your child’s teacher of the living arrangement and schedule. That way, if there are important due dates or information that requires immediate attention, the teacher knows who to direct it to. Writing the schedule in your child’s planner will help reduce the stress for your child.
2. If more than one person is doing the after-school pick-up, try to be consistent with location and arrangements. I can’t tell you how many times I witnessed children at the front of the school in tears because no one was there to pick them up at the end of the day. This was almost always due to miscommunication (which happens to all parents, separated or not). However, children who live in different houses can be anxious about ‘who is coming to get me tonight’.
3. Ask the teacher to include 2 copies of monthly calendars, book orders and notices. Although most schools are using websites now, it is important to keep up to date on special events. You would not want your child to be the only Grade One student wearing Green if is it RED day!
4. Attending Meet the Teacher Night is a good way to put a face to the name. You want to be a part of your child’s team in ensuring he/she has the most support possible with homework etc.
5. Have a conversation with your former spouse about how to handle extra expenses (book orders, special lunches, trips). Your support arrangement may address these but sometimes it does not. Avoid asking your child to collect your former spouse’s share of school trip fees. That will only cause some negative feelings and certainly puts kids in an awkward situation.
6. If possible, buy an extra pair of running shoes and gym clothes that can be left at school. Children who live in two different homes already have 2 routines, 2 houses to manage. It will save you that emergency trip from work to deliver running shoes for gym class.
The school year is an exciting time for all! Try to make it as stress free as possible for your children! They already have a lot to get used to in September. A few conversations and proactive steps can go a long way to minimize their stress load (and yours).