The beginning of the school year is upon us. As students in New Jersey head back to school in September (most schools begin on September 6 after the Labor Day holiday), newly divorced parents will need to make some adjustments as they prepare for the new year.
This is a stressful time, and there’s a lot more to do than simple clothes shopping and worrying about school supplies.
Don’t underestimate the stress your child will be under as they enter the school year – especially if you are recently divorced. As a parent, mom or dad, you need to consider the back-to-school season as a hurdle your child will face after your divorce.
Five key things you can do at the start of the school year to ease this burden on your child are:
1. Discuss Your Child’s Concerns With Them
Parents often forget that the easiest thing they can do is discuss their concerns with their children at the beginning of the year. If he or she is entering a new school, it can be an even bigger challenge.
A simple way to stay in the mix is to talk to your child.
Communication is key at this difficult time in your child’s life. But you can’t do all of the talking – you need to listen, too.
Maintaining an open dialog with your children will allow them to discuss any issues that arise throughout the school year, and they’ll be more likely to come to you for advice and guidance. A few of the questions you may ask include:
- Do you have any concerns going into the school year?
- Have you told any of your friends about the divorce? If so, how did they respond?
- How did you respond to any questions your friend’s asked about the divorce?
Kids can be cruel, and you want your children to open up to you if Timmy teases them by saying “your mom and dad don’t love each other anymore.”
If you discuss your child’s concerns and maintain this dialog all year, you’ll be able to judge how they’re dealing with the emotional and mental challenges that go along with a divorce.
2. Inform Teachers and School Officials of the Family Changes
Your child may be younger, and if they don’t take a school bus, teachers and school officials may be used to seeing your or your former pick up your child. Since you’re now divorced, you may be picking up your child one day, and your ex may be picking them up the next.
Teachers and school officials should know about these changes ahead of time.
A schedule can be given to the principal and teachers so that everyone knows of family changes. You’ll also need to update and change any contact information as necessary with the school.
A short call to the principal’s office will guide you in the right direction.
3. Form a Schedule With Your Ex
Schedules need to be considered and agreed upon prior to the start of the year. If you work late every Tuesday and your ex needs to pick up your child from school or soccer practice, form a schedule ahead of time to accommodate these circumstances before they become an issue.
Children don’t want mom and dad bickering over their schedule at the last minute.
You’ll also need to make up a schedule for:
- After school activities
- Pick up and drop off circumstances
And you may want to go as far as coming up with a holiday schedule. Courts will often grant winter and spring breaks to non-custodial parents, but if they don’t, make sure you discuss this with your ex so that all unknowns are settled before the school year begins.
4. Determine Who Will Attend Parent-Teacher Meetings
Those dreaded parent-teacher meetings are going to begin again. This time, you’ll need to decide which parent, or if both parents, will be attending the meetings. Some parents decide that mom will go to one meeting and dad will go to the next meeting.
In most cases, it’s best if mom and dad can attend all meetings together in a civil manner.
It’s never a good idea to decide who will attend the parent-teacher conference at the last minute. A lot of parents dread these conferences, so make a schedule first so that you both know who will be going to your child’s next parent-teacher conference.
5. Seek Help From School Counselors
Counselors or psychologists at your child’s school may be able to help make the transition into school a little easier. These professionals will work with your child (free in public schools) in the same way a psychologist would in a professional setting.
If you notice your child is having a difficult time adjusting after the divorce, this can be a lifeline to help the transition move along smoothly.
Oftentimes, counselors will be beneficial because they’re not mom or dad. Kids will be able to speak more freely and discuss issues that they wouldn’t think of discussing with you and your ex.
Counselors are there to lend assistance to you and your child all year long. Discuss your options with them as soon as the school year starts.
The Micklin Law Group, LLC is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has a special expertise in working with child custody. You can read more on this topic by visiting our Child Custody & Support blog. To set up a consultation, call 973-562-0100.