photograph by Andresr | Dreamstime.com
It seems the summer gets shorter every year, much to the chagrin of children everywhere. Returning to school means figuring out new schedules and making sure both parents are on the same page, especially when they’re not living under one roof.
Often overlooked is that many non-custodial parents have more time with their children during the summer and less during the school year. This can cause them to feel disconnected from their children’s school, teachers, and activities. It doesn’t have to be so. Below are some practical ways divorced parents can work together during the school year.
Get (and Stay) Involved
Both mom and dad should be involved in their child’s school functions, parent/teacher conferences, and aftercare pickup. Get on your child’s school’s email lists, attend parent/teacher conferences, and offer to chaperone class field trips. If you are a custodial parent, do not shut the other parent out of these activities. If you are a non-custodial parent, do everything you can to get involved; you have every right to be an active participant in your child’s life. It is in your children’s best interest for both parents to know their school schedule and extra-curricular activities. This will ensure that assignments are not missed, and that permission slips and other documents are returned promptly to teachers.
Communicate to School Staff
If you are involved in a difficult divorce or have recently been through a divorce or custody dispute, let your child’s teacher and school counselor know about your family’s situation. This information will allow him or her to understand what your child is going through and perhaps be a bit more understanding of behaviors during the transition to your family’s “new normal.” Sometimes, children become close with their teachers and find it comforting to confide in them. This is healthy, as most great teachers and counselors want to help. Such knowledge may encourage the teacher to talk to your child more, encourage him, and perhaps show leniency when appropriate. This will only help your child as he works to adjust during this tough period.
Regardless of the terms of your parenting order, keep your focus on the children. While everyone understands what the parenting order says, sometimes emotions get in the way of doing what is in your child’s best interest. It is just spiteful to not allow your child to occasionally go to dinner or other activities with the non-custodial parent during “your time.” Strive to put yourself in your co-parent’s shoes: Imagine if you only saw your children every other weekend. While it’s not an easy situation, being caught in the middle is most difficult for your children. If you are flexible, your co-parent will likely be as well. Flexibility helps the relationship between parents and makes your children feel more comfortable, knowing their parents are working together.
Present a Unified Front
Let’s be honest: children can be manipulative. If divorced parents are not on the same page regarding schoolwork, discipline, and the like, you will have issues. You are no longer married, but you still share responsibilities regarding discipline and expectations for your children. Discuss specific situations, come to an agreement on your position and present a unified front with respect to discipline, expectations for grades, pick-up times, etc.
— Founded by Justin K. Thomas, the Thomas Family Law Firm focuses on family law in Tennessee and Mississippi. Call (901) 537-0010 or visit thomasfamilylaw.net.