Sunday, September 1, 2013

Back to School Tips for Divorced Parents

The school year recently started for most kids. If yours aren’t back to school yet, they’re likely winding down their summer festivities to get back into the mode of waking up early and going to the bus stop and all that stuff you and I did so many years ago. Summer vacation is great and wonderful but in order for our little ones – and not so little ones – to become their best, school is where the training is done.

The years of formal education are so critical to a child’s development. Psychologists will confirm this: 90% of brain development occurs within the first 3 years of life. Then the older kids get, the harder it becomes  to learn concepts that are so easily grasped when they’re young.

As parents, one of our jobs is to create the type of environment that facilitates our kids’ learning. With this post, I’d like to share some tips that I believe will help divorced parents to work together to ensure their kids’ education is a priority.

Statistics tell us that kids from two parent households fare much better than kids of single parents. That’s not to say that kids of single parents cannot become successful; however, when two parents work together to support their kids and facilitate their development, they tend to become well-adjusted and more prepared to take on the challenges that life will present.

In the United States, just over 50% of first marriages end in divorce. Many of these marriages produced children so although the relationships are over, the former spouses are bound together for life because their kids remain. It’s one of those things that come with the territory.

Having been through a divorce, I can tell you firsthand that adjusting to the new life isn’t quite so simple. When children are in the picture, even if the divorce was messy, the former spouses have to find a way to deal with each other. One of the key areas that must be considered is the kids’ education.

Here are some tips that I believe will help divorced parents to work together as it relates to their children’s schooling:

  •           Put the kids first. No matter how difficult the divorce was, remember the kids are the innocent parties and ought to be each parent’s priority. You may not like your former spouse very much but for the kids’ sake, learn to deal with them.
  •          Communicate with your ex. This may be easier said than done but communication is the key. Chances are, the divorce happened due to a lack of communication in the relationship so it might be a tall order to establish this after the marriage. But it’s very necessary. The good thing with technology today is that you can correspond without even speaking. Text messaging and other forms of modern communication can work wonders.
  •            Meet the teachers. It’s always important that parents get to know their kids’ teachers. This is particularly important when there is a divorce. Teachers may not need to know the details of the divorce; however, it’s good to let them know that your child has two homes. In this way, they can be sensitive to the child’s needs. It also helps them to know how best to communicate with each parent. Many teachers are accessible by email so take advantage of this means of keeping up with your kids’ development in the classroom.

  •           Maintain similar routine at each home. Kids learn best in a stable environment. When divorce happens, there is a necessary adjustment period. You can help them to re-establish some stability by maintaining the same guidelines in each home as it relates to their routine. For example, if bedtime is 8:30 PM at mom’s home, it shouldn’t be 10:00 PM at dad’s. If they are not allowed to watch TV on school nights at one home, the same policy should be adhered to at the other home. It may not be so easy but it’s something that should be aimed for. Remember, kids learn best when they have a stable, predictable routine.
  •           Keep educational supplies at each home. This might seem obvious but I’ll share it here anyway. Keep pens, pencils and other educational materials at each home. The kids usually travel with them anyway but remember, they are kids. So if they forget their ruler at dad’s home, they shouldn’t be at a disadvantage as a result. Just keeping some basic supplies might make things a lot easier.
  •           Attend your kids’ school functions. Throughout the school year, your kids may have different school functions to which parents may be invited – functions such as awards banquets, concerts, talent shows, graduations. They love it when they see both of their parents at these events. Perhaps dad and mom don’t get along – they might not even be on speaking terms. But when they show up, kids love it. So you don’t necessarily have to sit next to your ex at the event. Just be there and your kids will appreciate it.

I’m sure that there are many more tips that could be shared on this subject but I’ll leave it at that for now. The point of this post is to help parents understand that they have a key role to play in their kids’ education – even when the family is no longer intact. I wrote in one of my poems,

Parenthood is forever
A spouse may come and go
This bond is broken never
It’s one law nature knows.

So your role as a parent is perpetual – even when there is a divorce. By adopting some basic guidelines and principles, you can help your kids successfully cope with the changes that divorce necessarily brings.

I hope that reading this has been an encouragement to you. Your kids are to be treasured above anything or anyone else. Just do your very best for them and some way, somehow, things will work out.

Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad