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Helping Children Thrive in School Amidst Divorce

How To Help Your Child Thrive In School, Even If They’re Still Adjusting To Divorce

When parents divorce, child custody and visitation are two of the most highly charged aspects of the process. Even divorcing spouses who manage to remain civil throughout the divorce are likely to incur at least a few challenges when it comes to ironing out a mutually agreeable visitation schedule.

As a parent, you know how important it is to put your differences aside and focus on the well-being of your child, even in the midst of emotional turmoil. It’s not easy, but doing so helps your child adjust to the new normal. Remember, by nature, children are required to be highly adaptable. Each year when your child heads back to school, they have to adjust to new teachers, bustling schedules, changes within their peer groups and more.

We’ve compiled some of our best tips to help you and your child cope with recent changes in your family dynamic as you embark on this new school year.

  1. Tackle Finances Together

As we said earlier, child custody and visitation are two of the most challenging issues in divorce. Another major source of contention? Money.

School, be it public or private, is expensive. Not only do your kids need new clothes or school uniforms each year, but the list of school supplies is endless. For parents with students in middle school or high school, the cost of supplies might include new technology, expensive calculators and more.

If you find yourself arguing with your ex or soon-to-be-ex about school expenses and who’s responsible for what, there are a few things you should do.

  • For divorced parents: consult your marital settlement agreement (MSA). Your MSA contains a comprehensive breakdown detailing you and your ex’s financial responsibilities in terms of school, extra-curricular activities, health-related costs and more.

Even if you receive child support, you may still be entitled to additional money to cover educational costs. Moreover, if you or your ex has a significant financial change, you should revisit your MSA with a skilled attorney.

  • For parents in the midst of a divorce: First and foremost, select a reputable Rhode Island law firm with a proven track record. Provide your attorney with your financial information and the costs associated with your child’s education. A complete and accurate snapshot of these costs helps your attorney advocate for a fair settlement for you.

Tip: Make a concerted effort to leave your children out of financial discussions or disputes. Even off-handed comments about your ex or soon-to-be-ex can impact your children negatively. 

  1. Create a drama-free first day

The first day of school is either exciting or anxiety-inducing, depending on your child. A consistent routine for the first day of school can help kids get off to a good start.

If you’re newly divorced, stick to the visitation schedule outlined in your MSA or agreed to by you and your ex. This means that even if you’re bummed out that your child is with your ex on the night-before or morning-of the new school year, don’t make a big deal of it. While it’s normal to feel emotional, it’s best to remain upbeat and focused on your child.

If you’re really upset about not seeing your child off on their first day of school, try talking to your ex privately. If you’re on good terms and they’re agreeable to it, you could offer to see your child off to school together. An added benefit of this arrangement is that your child will see you and your ex working as a team, regardless of the recent changes in family dynamics.

If you’re in the midst of divorce and tensions are high, do your best to normalize things for your child. Remember, they didn’t ask for, or likely want, you and your spouse to divorce. A major part of helping them cope is acknowledging their feelings and shielding them from the nitty-gritty details of your divorce.

Furthermore, if you’re recently divorced or you and your spouse split over the summer break, you might consider giving your child’s teacher a heads up.  It’s not unusual for children to maintain their composure at home about the divorce, only to have challenges at school. Speaking to your child’s teacher is a good preemptive approach to help ensure any issues are caught and addressed early.

Tip: Your ability to be level-headed and compassionate with your child in terms of the divorce and the changes associated with the new school year is one of the most selfless gifts you can give your child. Be on the lookout for any changes and communicate often with your ex and your child’s teacher. 

  1. The ABC’s of Scheduling 

Even when parents live together, schedules can be hectic. When a child’s time is divided between two homes, you and your ex need to have a clear understanding of the school calendar, sports, extracurriculars, and depending on your child’s organizational skills, homework, and school projects.

Setting up a shared calendar, for instance, a Google calendar, Cozi or a mobile app, where you and your ex have access to important dates can help you avoid conflict, stay on the same page, and alleviate your child’s stress. An example of information to include on your calendar is:

  • School dates, closures, vacations
  • Sports schedules and locations
  • Parent/teacher meetings
  • School-related activities and/or projects
  • Work-related travel or any dates that relate to a change in visitation

Tip: One of the most common conflicts co-parents have stems from one parent feeling left out or uninformed. To prevent this before it happens, take a proactive approach in your child’s education. If your ex refuses to cooperate with you, request that the school send communications to you, as well as your ex. If you feel that your ex is actively trying to push you out of your child’s school life, contact an experienced Rhode Island child custody lawyer

If you can’t work things out together, you have options

Sometimes, despite how much effort you put into co-parenting, your ex will refuse to cooperate and try to make things as difficult as possible for you. This is one of the most harmful things a parent can do to a child and goes against the “best interest of the child standards” set forth by the Rhode Island Family Court. If you’re going through this, we’re here to help.

The dedicated team at Kirshenbaum Law Associates is available to help you navigate difficult child custody and visitation issues. Contact us at 401.467.5300 for a confidential consultation.