In the first week of September, thousands of children around the UK will be returning to (or starting) school after the long summer break. This is filled with all kinds of emotions for both children and parents; nervousness, excitement…relief.
For parents who live apart, whether due to a recent separation or for those who have been divorced for some time, there are additional challenges.
For the newly separated, emotions between the parents may be running high. The logistical nightmare that lies ahead, with reaching agreement with their estranged spouse about school activities and establishing a routine for the children, can be daunting.
Parents, who have been separated for some time, do not have it much easier. The parent, who does not live with the children the majority of the time, has enjoyed extended periods of quality time with the children over the summer holidays. That will now be dramatically reduced by the children arrangements for the new school term. It’s tough.
But of course, it is not just difficult for the parents. The children are suddenly thrown in to a new routine and expected to adapt straightaway. Coping with their parents’ separation, and the to-ing and fro-ing between Mum and Dad’s respective homes, is challenging enough. They now face fresh challenges with the start of a new school year; settling into a new class, new teachers, and not forgetting of course, their school work.
Here are my 4 top tips for heading back to school:
1. Establish a Routine
The arrangements for the summer holidays are now redundant. It is important to establish a sensible term time routine. Children and parents need consistency. Get on the same page with your ex. Reach agreement in advance, about all the important school term issues, e.g. drop- off and pick -ups, parents evenings, school activities etc. Doing this in advance, helps avoid hiccups along the way.
2. Share Information
It is important for both parents to share information about school. The schools are very good at providing letters to two different homes for children with divorced parents. However, do not rely on them for this. Put aside your personal feelings for each other and ensure you communicate about important school activities etc. Thinking you are getting “one up” on your ex by not telling them about parents evening is petty. It is your son or daughter who will miss out. Put your child’s interests and feelings first.
3. Co-Ordinate Calendars
Both parents need a written record of the agreed arrangements regarding the children, including school and child care details. The schedule needs to be straightforward and easy to follow for everyone, particularly the children. It is sensible to have a wall planner in each parent’s home, for everyone to see. Keep it clear and simple.
4. Keep School a Neutral Environment
The school needs to know when a child’s parents live separately. They will need to contact both parents regarding school issues that affect the child. The school also needs to be made aware of any changes to the person responsible for pick -ups and drop -offs. Most importantly, they need to be made aware of the reason for any possible changes to a child’s behaviour or quality of their school work. However, it is not necessary to go in to great detail about the separation. Do not burden the teachers and parents at the school gates with personal detail about all the issues going on at home. Allow school to be a refuge for your child. A place for them to have fun, learn and forget about their family issues.
Making arrangements for the children is a major challenge for separated/divorced parents. I do a great deal of work in this area, supporting the parents to do the best for their children.
If you have found the tips in this blog useful then you’ll find lots more in my eBooks, which you can purchase and download today.