For most school-aged children, the back-to-school season is a time of new beginnings. It’s an opportunity to connect with old friends and make new ones. However, for children of divorce, returning to school can also be a time when the effects of their broken family unit intensify.
Unlike the summer vacation months, the school season requires more coordination between co-parents to get children back and forth to school and extracurricular activities. Without proper planning and communication, there is an increased potential for interparental conflict. School can become a war zone where children’s education and happiness are the casualties.
“How can I make my child a success?” is a question every parent asks themselves, whether their child is attending their first day of preschool or heading off to college. However, academic success isn’t solely based on test scores. Your child’s ability to retain information, adapt to their surroundings, and interact with teachers and peers are equally important factors to consider. Here are a few tips to help set your children – and yourself – up for a successful school year.
1. Decide how to split school expenses.
Back-to-school supplies can be a significant source of contention for divorced couples. According to LendingTree's 2021 Back-to-School Shopping Survey, the average cost of school supplies is $498. Child support doesn't cover these expenses, so they tend to fall onto the custodial parent, which can create resentment, especially for a parent who makes significantly less than the other parent. To avoid future disputes, you and your ex-partner must devise a solid plan around how costs will be split before the school season arrives. You may decide to divide costs evenly or pay a certain percentage based on your income. The key is to develop terms on which both parties can agree.
2. Communicate your child’s schedule.
A healthy co-parenting relationship can make or break your child's school year, as ongoing conflict can pose potential psychological and physical health risks. As with any relationship, remaining conflict-free requires consistent communication. Google Calendar is an excellent tool for sharing information regarding your child's schedule. You can track drop-offs and pick-ups, parent-teacher meetings, afterschool activities, and doctor's appointments. Following this step will ensure you and your ex remain on the same page and mitigate any miscommunication mishaps.
3. Establish a routine for homework.
Upon informing your children of your plans to divorce, you may immediately notice a shift in their temperament and overall motivation at school. Children whose parents have parted ways are more likely to have lower educational outcomes. Having a designated time for homework offers several benefits, including providing accountability, helping children learn time management, and creating bonding time between you and your kids. Set a time each day to spend on homework tasks. Before each session, create a to-do list of all assignments that must be completed and keep technology out of sight to prevent distractions.
4. Look out for signs of stress.
As an adult, stress is a part of your everyday existence. While parents can easily identify their own high-stress levels, they tend to minimize their children's stress. In a 2015 WebMD Stress in Children Consumer Survey, 60% of parents reported that their child had little to no stress, rating them 4 out of 10. However, the survey revealed that 72% of children demonstrated stress-related behaviors, including being argumentative, loss of appetite, and nightmares or trouble sleeping. Recognizing the warning signs of stress early and adopting healthy coping mechanisms are essential for raising well-adjusted kids.
5. Get teachers and school staff involved.
Keeping an eye on your children the entire day is impossible, so you will need to rely on feedback from teachers on their emotional wellness and academic performance. While your child may be getting good grades in school, that may not tell the whole story. They may be exhibiting other signs of distress, like withdrawing from social activities or getting into fights with classmates. Informing school staff of your divorce allows them to pay closer attention to symptoms of abnormal behavior and provide support when needed.
6. Practice self-care.
Divorce is an arduous process that can take a toll in unexpected ways. Alongside the erratic emotions you may experience, you may also face financial stress. To properly care for your children, prioritizing your mental health during this time is crucial. This can include making time each day for movement or dedicating an hour or two each week to doing something you enjoy. This will make you a happier individual and a more effective parent and co-parent.
7. Protect your peace of mind.
Co-parenting with a former spouse who suffers from alcohol abuse can make managing an already stressful school year even more difficult. The added worry of keeping the children safe while they are in the care of the party who struggles with alcohol can keep the concerned parent on edge, negatively impacting their emotional health. However, with Soberlink’s remote alcohol monitoring system, you can preserve your children’s well-being and everyone’s peace of mind. Trusted by thousands of the nation’s leading Family Law attorneys in custody and alcohol cases, Soberlink is the only system with real-time results, facial recognition, and tamper detection to make certain the results you receive are accurate.
Success is not linear. There will be ups and downs, such as a separation or divorce, that will temporarily divert the course of your family dynamic. You can avoid derailment by establishing routines to keep your children academically engaged and open lines of communication with your ex-partner. Think of your shared parenting relationship as a business partnership where the only objectives are to ensure your child is happy and does well in school.