Settling into the school routine is tough enough. When you are a newly separated family, settling in can be - and usually is - even tougher. You have new homes, new bus routes, new morning and bedtime routines - we could go on and on. This, on top of new teachers, new classmates and new school parents to deal with, many of them judgey.
Your little one has no control over any of these things, you some. So, settling in is even tougher for your child.
Here are some things you and your ex should do to make the transition smoother:
1. Visit the school together, with your child. Let your child see that mom and dad can be in the same school at the same time.
2. Ask questions together, and, if you don't, share the information with the other parent. Yes, even if you do not have to share, share anyway! Get the same information from the teacher about homework, supplies, volunteer opportunities, uniforms, conferences, etc. This will minimize miscommunication and your child going without something on one parent's time because the other didn't bother to say anything.
3. Sign up for online portals, mailing lists, etc. Again, the more information, the better for your child. When you get communication from the school, share it with the other parent. Although it is true most courts will not require you to share, and you both have access to this information, both of those rights miss the mark. It takes a few seconds to share the information, and it is good parenting to do so. You do not want your child missing out because you did not share. Do not rely on the other parent to tell you things - you should follow up on your own - but set a good example and share the communications you do receive.
4. By a united front on household rules. You and the other parent should have similar bedtimes and homework times. This way, your child's routine will be uninterrupted, and your child will get into the good habit of doing the same school tasks at the same time. Neither of you will become the (unfun) homework parent, too, because you both will be doing homework on your time.
5. Volunteer! Your child will miss both of you after your separation. Avoid appearing at the school daily (this will make it harder for your child to adjust, and you will also make other children jealous), but do not hesitate to volunteer for activities, preferably together, so that your child can see the two of you functioning as parents. Leave the animosity at the door. If you two cannot be in a public place together, volunteer on different days, and tell each other!
6. Calendar, calendar, calendar. Create a shared calendar (AppClose has one for free) for your child's activities. Include time, location, who is taking the child and any supplies the child needs. This way, your child will not miss out. Also print a calendar for your child so that your child knows which parent he or she is seeing on any given day. This can get confusing for the child.
7. Tell teachers you are separated, but keep it light. Your child's teacher should know you two are separated so that he or she will be extra careful to communicate with each of you, rather than rely on one of you to tell the other goings-on at school.
8. Do not involve your child's teacher in your drama. Just don't. Your child's teacher does not need to be CC'd on emails between the two of you. You two should communicate together as a united front, when you need to email the teacher. If there is a serious issue about communicating or about what one parent is doing, schedule an in-person meeting to discuss and to set guidelines for sending information to each of you.
9. Share supplies. This is NOT worth fighting over. If your child needs a laptop and one of you cannot afford one, let the laptop go between your homes. Let your child take supplies back and forth. Try to match the quality as best you can. You do not want your child going without or seeing one of you as "poor" and the other as having the best stuff. This sends a bad message to your child and also causes your child to feel your separation more. School supplies you can replace -your child's memories of you, you cannot.
10. Give your child pep talks - often! Your child should be excited to go to school, even if he or she is going from two homes. Give your child pep talks about how fun it will be to learn, all the sports and activities to play, how proud mom and dad are, etc. Your child needs to know mom and dad are there as support - even if from two homes.
What other tips can you think of? Share in the comments below.
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