Back to School After Divorce: Challenges and Suggestions

By |2017-09-29T10:46:41+00:00September 9th, 2017|Co-Parenting, Divorce, Wellness|0 Comments

Is it back to school time already? It seems like summer just started! Back to school time can definitely sneak up on you, especially if your mind has been preoccupied by other things, such as going through a divorce.  Divorce can bring many changes to the school routine for your children.  These changes can be as simple as whether they buy or pack their lunch, or they may be more complex, like having to change schools.  Children may have to get on the bus at one home, and get off the bus at the other. Or they may stay with one parent for one week, and with another parent the other week.  Hopefully both parents live in the same school district.  If not, one parent will have to drive to school everyday.

Adjusting to going back to school may also be hard for everyone!  Some children do not like going to school.  They may need extra prompting to get up and get dressed in the morning, and to do their homework in the evening.  Other children may be the victims of bullying at school, and may not want to attend.  They may be filled with stress and anxiety about the bullying and it may be difficult to get them to go to school.  Adding a divorce to an already difficult school transition can make for messy and challenging school days (and evenings… and weekends…).

What Can You Do To Make the Transition to School After Divorce Easier for your Children?

Listen!!!  One of the most important things that a parent can do for their child during this transitional time is to talk to your children.  Talk to them about their feelings about the divorce; about going back to school; about their friends; about anything.  And listen to what they are saying.  Parents who are available to talk with children about their day and about their concerns are more likely to have well adjusted children.  Allow children the opportunity to talk about the challenges they have been facing in dealing with the divorce, or in school, or anywhere.  Parents should be open and nonjudgmental, and should be available to talk about anything the child wants to discuss.  Too often parents are too busy to sit down and talk to children about simple things they learned during the day, or to hear about what the other kids on the playground had to say today. However, children are more likely to come to a parent throughout their lives with bigger problems if they know that their parents are open and accepting.  Children whose parents are more closed off may be the last to know of something going on with their child.

Children may have a lot of feelings following divorce.  They may worry about which parent will attend parent-teacher conferences or attend sport tournaments.  They may worry about their parents fighting in front of others.  They worry about what they should tell their friends. Sometimes children feel guilt about having these feelings and may keep them inside.  They may feel that they are somehow responsible for the divorce.  Other children may have a need to mourn the loss of the family they have known.  Parents who are open to listening and discussing all of these concerns and any others that arise, have better outcomes than parents who are not open or who do not take the time to listen and discuss.

Talk to their teachers:  Another very important conversation to have is with the school and to your childrens’ teachers. It is not unusual for a child’s grades to decline or for them to exhibit some disruptive behaviors in the classroom following the divorce of her/his parents.  Children may have a lot of emotions that they are experiencing that may affect the way that they interact with others and with the school environment. It is important for teachers to know what is going on so that they can better handle any behaviors that occur in the classroom.  Children spend a lot of time at school, and their teachers come to know them fairly well.  Building a solid alliance with the school and teachers can help children better adjust to the changes after divorce.  This can include talking with them before the start of the school year, having regular meetings or conversations with the teachers, and/or to have a daily log that goes back and forth between home and school to make sure that parents know what happened in school and teachers know what is happening at home.

Consistency!!!!!!!  As children adjust to divorce, they may experience many feelings, including more separation anxiety than they did in the past.  They may cling to one parent, worried that they may not see that parent again for a while.  The anxiety that children experience with separation anxiety can be soothed with reassurance and with time.  It is also helpful to establish a predictable and consistent routine between homes.Consistency between homes in key in helping children adjust to divorce, especially when they are starting a new grade in school.  Effective coparenting would include discussing times and rules for homework time, bedtime, bathtime, and social time, and having the same rules at both houses. Having a schedule and routine helps everyone return to normalcy much faster than without. Setting rules for screen time is also important to maintain consistency between homes.  Set boundaries for how long children can play video games or watch videos, and stick to those boundaries in both homes.  Some families find it helpful to use a shared family calendar or messenger system to communicate with each other about the details of homework, appointments, daily activities, etc.  This is a good way to maintain communication with your ex for the benefit of your children.

Attend to your child’s most basic needs: Make sure that your children’s basic needs are met.  Some of you may say that it is silly that this even needs to be mentioned.  However, sometimes when parents are preoccupied with other things, like divorce, they pay less attention to a child who isn’t eating properly, or who doesn’t sleep at night. Make sure that children are eating healthy food, and eating well.  Make sure that they get enough sleep at night, and that they are attending to their activities of daily living.  Be sure to have their favorite outfits clean each week.

Your child needs a good parent to help her/his manage going back to school while dealing with feelings of divorce in their lives.  You are a good parent and you can make a difference in your child’s adjustment process by being proactive, open, and consistent.

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