“You’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” Dr. Seuss
Back to School! It is that time of year again – teachers are decorating their classrooms, parents are shopping for school supplies, and students are enjoying the last few days of summer vacation. The new school year is about to start. This can be a time of anticipation, excitement, anxiety or even dread. This is true for all families. For separated or divorced families, it can also be a time of conflict. Back to school legal issues can exacerbate already difficult parenting situations.
The following are strategies that may be useful to employ as a family as you prepare to return to school. Attempting to make the transition easier during the school year is in the best interest of everyone involved.
Family Meeting. Create an agenda including bus schedules, extra-curricular activities, drop-off and pick-up times, days off, required school supplies. This meeting can eliminate confusion at the start of the school year and foster a spirit of cooperation. A shared online calendar can help you both stay on top of the schedule throughout the year. Here are a few suggested online apps to assist in organizing your family’s schedule:
- Hub Family Organizer. To keep both your home and family organized, try Hub Family Organizer. With Hub, you can share calendars, to-do lists, chores, photos and more to keep everyone in sync and organized.
- The Cozi App makes your computer, mobile phone and tablet the ultimate family organizing tool. Best of all, it is a free app that will help you manage the family schedule, organize shopping lists and even capture memories — all in one place.
- Wunderlist. For a great collaborative family calendar app that lets you and your family members share chores, projects and due dates, download Wunderlist. You can even assign tasks to your family members, set reminders or print your lists to keep a hard copy handy. There is a free version available, as well as paid features.
Family Group Text. Start a group chat that includes the entire family. Send texts whenever your kids have some good news to share or needs a little encouragement. It’s a communication trick that works wonders for families working to stay connected. Leverage technology as a tool to stay engaged with your kids.
Weekday Routines. No two homes are the same and they never will be. But your family’s two households can try to set routines that mirror each other and if that’s impossible, at least have a set routine at your own home. Meals. Bedtime. Homework. These three areas would be the most important routines to establish during the school year. If parents do things in a completely different way, try to at least agree to the same bedtime and the same expectations for homework.
School Forms. Make sure both parents are listed on emergency contact forms and are on the school’s distribution lists for notifications and report cards. Express to administration and teachers right at the start of the school year that both parents shall receive communication from the school.
Communicate with Teachers. While you may consider your separation/divorce a private family matter, it could benefit your child to inform his or her teacher – so they will be sensitive to, and can alert you to, any emotional struggles your child may be experiencing. Especially if your family is in the process of transitioning into two households.
Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences Together. Attending parent-teacher conferences as a team sends an important message to your children and their teachers. Regardless of what happened in the past, this action demonstrates that you have the kids’ best interests at heart.
Consider clearing your work schedule – planning a softer workload during the transition week back to school. Predictability and routine are good for kids. You can’t expect that each household will be run the same way, but you can attempt to agree to a family plan that will make for a smooth school year.
Keep your focus on your child’s school experience and development. All children need and want the love and involvement of both parents. For parents facing the difficult back to school decisions that can arise in the context of separation or divorce, you may do well to consult your family law attorney on these issues.
The information in this article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state or jurisdiction. Please seek appropriate counsel for your own situation. The inclusion of links to outside resources is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended as an endorsement by this Firm.