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Handling Back-to-School Season in the Midst of a Divorce

Back-to-school time is hectic and stressful enough on its own—and it becomes even more overwhelming when it hits in the midst of a divorce.

If you’re a parent who’s right in the middle of a divorce, or has just gone through a divorce, there are some helpful strategies you can use to help the beginning of the school year go more smoothly for everyone in your family.

  1. If you’re right in the middle of a divorce, you’re likely creating a custody and parenting plan, so be sure to include every conceivable detail that goes along with the start of a new school year, including who will primarily care for the children during the school week, how homework and assignments will be handled, who will be responsible for after school time and how activities will be scheduled and handled. The best thing you can do for yourself and your children is to plan ahead, and to plan in great detail.
  2. Communication is key. When you’re no longer operating as a married parental unit, you really have to work to stay on top of things, and even though communicating may be the last thing you want to do, if you have kids it’s absolutely necessary. In order to minimize the amount of time you actually have to spend talking, and also eliminate confusion, you may want to utilize a shared calendar or scheduling app.
  3. Let your children’s teachers and possibly school counselors know what’s going on. This is important for a couple of different reasons. First, your child may be having more difficulty with the changing situation than you even realize, and teachers and counselors may be able to spot problems your child is having and alert you of what’s going on. It’s also important from a technical standpoint—your children’s teachers need to know what type of arrangements are going to occur, whether it’s pick-up from school, or who will be chaperoning field trips, particularly if this is a very new arrangement that no one in the family is quite accustomed to just yet.
  4. If your children are sharing time between your home and your ex-spouse’s home, make sure both locations are equipped with everything that’s needed for back-to-school, or that there’s an efficient system for sharing items between two homes. You may want to consider a weekly checklist that can be completed whenever your kids switch homes that covers everything from school supplies that are needed, to athletic equipment and clothing. Before leaving for the other parent’s home, you can help your child look it over to make sure they have everything—otherwise you may have to invest in duplicates of everything your kids need for the school year.
  5. Develop a way to track spending and upcoming expenses. Again, you can utilize technology just as you do for scheduling, and take advantage of an app like Mint. This will help you more effectively manage expenses between you and your ex-spouse, and plan accordingly for upcoming expenses that come with the start of a new school year.
  6. Both parents should take the time to get to know new teachers, coaches, etc. It’s important that you both act as you did when you were married in terms of being invested in your child’s life and playing an active role. It may be ideal to present a unified front and meet these people together, but if that’s out of the question just make sure you both arrange a time to get to know the people in your child’s life separately. It’s also important that you and your former spouse develop systems for remaining actively involved in your child’s school work and life throughout the year so that your kids aren’t able to keep information from either of you. Both parents should work to stay completely informed of everything going on at school.

Remember, as much as you’re feeling overwhelmed by your divorce and the start of a new school year, your kids are also feeling similarly. Make sure you take the time to talk to them, let them express their feelings, and provide them with a sense of consistency and stability as they’re also entering into a new and uncertain time in their lives as they experience the divorce of their parents.

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