It’s that time of year again; and while this is an exciting time for kids, it is also filled with anxiety and stress. These feelings are often exacerbated in divorced families. However, there are a number of small things that parents can do to help lessen their children’s worry.
1. Use a master calendar. Take the time to sit down with the other parent and plan the entire year out in advance. In addition to the regular parenting plan, include as many vacations, sporting events, and school activities as possible. Parents should each get a copy of the school calendar for the year, along with their parenting plan, and find the time to sit down together to create the master calendar. This pre-planning will help every transition go more smoothly and it will ensure that the kids know where they will be and who they will be with.
2. Keep track of the backpack. All too often I get phone calls from parents who are struggling with a parenting plan because the other parent refuses to return the child’s backpack. While this seems insignificant, it creates a great deal of stress for the child. The backpack is an especially important belonging for a child that is shuffling between two different households. This is typically the one item that consistently goes back and forth with them. Parents should realize that it is embarrassing and unnerving for kids to show up for school unprepared. It is also inconsiderate for parents to refuse to return the backpack and its contents in an effort to spite or inconvenience the other parent. Parents should be aware that the person they are hurting with this behavior is the child.
3. Work as a team. While there are certain family dynamics that do not allow for this approach, it is always favored for parents to work together as a team when it comes to their children’s schooling. As often as possible, parents should meet with teachers together and present a united front on homework issues.
4. Both parents as contacts. Although there may be a custodial and a noncustodial parent, both parents should be listed on all school documentation as contacts. Both parents should ensure that they are receiving mailings from the school and both should obtain online access to the child’s records.
5. Step-parents. Step-parents have a tough role all the way around. Often the family dynamic is already stressed and the addition of a step-parent can either worsen the stress or sometimes, can relieve it. When it comes to school issues, step-parents should be courteous and should make it easy for the other parent to involve them. Do not overstep boundaries or create conflicts. Do not force involvement.
6. Communicate directly. Parents should learn to communicate directly with each other. Do not put notes in your child’s backpack for the other parent, or tell the child to pass a message on to the other parent. Children should not be the messenger. Pick up the phone, meet for coffee, or send an email to the other parent. It is important to put your issues with each other aside and work together when it comes to your children.
It is easy to get caught up in the battle and lose sight of the damage that is caused to the children in the day-to-day life of divorced parenting. It does not take much effort to ease the stress and anxiety of your children during this time, but it will make a tremendous difference to them if divorced parents work together and keep the best interests of their children in mind.
Chelsea helps individuals and families work through some of the most challenging issues they will face in their personal lives while vigorously protecting their interests and rights.