Back-to-School After Divorce: Helping Your Children Return to the Classroom

Like most children, children of divorce face challenges while heading back to school. But the challenges and issues for children of a recent divorce can be unique and not the typical back to school problems.  If you got divorced within the last six months and have minor children, your family will face new challenges when the new school year starts. Co-parenting and joint custody can be especially challenging during the school year.  How can you make sure that your children have a good, comfortable, and academically successful year in the wake of your divorce? 

Make a calendar. Your child custody and parenting time schedule will be new to everyone, and planning for upcoming events and vacations is key. Find out when your child will be out of school, when special events take place (such as recitals and games), and which parent will be in charge and present.  If your child’s teacher has a Google calendar, Google classroom or similar online calendar, make sure you download it.  Also, be sure that you download the school’s calendar, so that you are aware of days off and half days.  They are not always on holidays and you will want as much heads up was possible.

Talk to the teacher and your child. If your child is younger, you may wish to let your child’s teacher know what has happened and how your child is coping.  At the very least, it will prevent confusion or embarrassment.  At the most, it will allow your teacher to help your child through this tough transition.  If the teacher has Remind 10, Schoology, or some other notification system to tell you about upcoming tests and important dates for their classroom, be sure to sign up for it.  Don’t rely on your child for your only source of information, and don’t rely on your ex-wife for any information if you can avoid it.  If there is an open house or curriculum night, be sure to attend.  It is not to be missed.

Update contact information. It’s likely that you or your ex-wife have moved. Make sure that the school knows who to contact and when. Also make sure that both you and your ex-wife are on important school mailing and email lists, and that the school has a current phone number for you.

Coordinate the backpack (and supplies). Your child’s backpack has always been important, but this year it’s vital that you pack it with everything your child will need for school, whether she is at your house or your ex-wife’s house. Stock it with school supplies, snacks, and anything else school-related she will need – and make sure it travels with her wherever she goes.

Teach your child how to talk about divorce. Your child will likely have trouble answering, “how was your summer?” Talk with them about how they can tell their friends about the divorce without too much difficulty. If your child is in counseling, ask the counselor to speak on this subject before the school year starts.

Coordinate and co-parent with your ex-wife. You may have just divorced, but you are still a co-parent with your ex. Put aside all feelings of anger and sadness so that you can make sure that your child has a great school year.  Do you have an agreed upon parenting calendar?  Does it include all school days off? Who will stay home with your child if he/she is sick or if there’s a snow day? If day to day coordination is difficult, consider enrolling in software such as My Family Wizard to have a central place for communicating.

Have a homework plan. It’s important that both parents know about homework assignments and other school-related responsibilities. Courts expect that each parent ensure that homework is completed during his or her parenting time. So, for instance, if it is your weekend and you are returning your son at 6 p.m. on Sunday it is wise to have him complete assignments due on Monday and not leave it up to your ex.  A calendar, online app, or date book can help your child stay organized and help both parents be aware of due dates for assignments, projects and tests.  Calendars can be an important way for schools to communicate, as mentioned above, be sure to download and link all teacher calendars and reminder systems.  Teachers also will have a Google Classroom or even a website for their class, so be sure you become familiar with such systems early in the school year.

Consider attending activities with your co-parent. Your child needs to receive the message that both of his parents still love and care about him. When he is involved in a special activity, such as a big sports game or a play, he may want you both there. Even if you are still struggling to get along with your ex-wife as a co-parent, it is vital that you put your differences aside to support your child.

Consider doubling up on textbooks. Shuffling from one house to another during the school year can be emotionally difficult for your child – and it can also cause mix-ups when it comes to textbooks and school supplies. Making sure your child has the resources she needs to succeed in school should be a top priority. Having school supplies (calculators, notebooks, pencils) as well as duplicate textbooks at each house can help smooth the transition.  If duplicate textbooks are not possible or not practical, discuss your concerns with your child and their teachers.

School can sometimes reveal flaws in parenting time schedules. Sometimes the best laid plans parties come up with simply don’t work in practice.  Often this doesn’t become apparent until school resumes.  Parenting time is modifiable if a parent can prove to the judge that there is proper cause or a change of circumstances.  If the other parent is unwilling or unable to give the child the structure and assistance for him to succeed, perhaps a change in schedule is warranted.  Excessive tardies, absences or missed assignments under the other parent’s watch can trigger a review and possible modification of the current order.  Try addressing your concerns with your ex- first, and, if all else fails, contact your attorney to discuss your options.

About ADAM (American Divorce Association for Men)

The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) is a group of highly qualified attorneys who advocate for men’s rights in divorce, child custody and parenting time, paternity, support, property settlement, post judgment modifications, and other family law matters. Since 1988, ADAM has been aggressive, diligent, and uncompromising when representing their clients. A team of compassionate and skilled family law attorneys, ADAM is dedicated to being Michigan’s leading divorce attorneys for men and practices a policy of integrity in all dealings.