For any parent, back-to-school season tends to be quite stressful. However, when you are divorced it's even more complicated. Who will be taking the yearly trip to Target for loading up on school supplies, and more critical, who will be paying for them? Are both parents listed on all important school forms?
In order to make it a little less overwhelming to head back to school, we compiled the following tips to help you.
1. Split the costs on back-to-school supplies.
Between school uniforms, calculators, backpacks, crayons, etc. the back-to-school supplies for your kids can end up costing you more than you expected. In order to share on the expenses you can divide up purchasing responsibilities in different ways. For example:
Dad might buy the water bottles, lunch boxes and backpacks, while Mom gets the supply list that the teacher sends home. Try to play on both of your strengths while paying around the same price. For example, Dad might be better at picking out a few higher quality items, while more detailed, specific things might be something that Mom is better at, or vice versa.
2. Get a shared Google calendar set up so that everyone can be kept informed.
Before each school year starts, get the family shared Google calendar updates with all of the upcoming school events scheduled in for all of your kids. That way, no one will end up missing school or parent-teacher conferences.
If you want something that is more geared toward co-parenting relationships, here are a couple of options:
Our Family Wizard (paid)
Another thing that is a good idea is to send out invites via the calendar for the really important events as you are entering them so you don't need to remember to do it later.
3. On the kids' first day of school, drop them off together.
The first day of school is often an overwhelming and scary time for kids, no matter how confident they may be. If possible, try freeing your schedule up so that both parents can drop off the kids to show your support.
Having both parents there with them on the first day of the school year can really mean a lot to a kid. This is especially important for younger children of for kids that are making a big transition year – like from elementary to middle school or even moving to a new school. Make sure to set aside any differences you might have with an ex spouse and be there for your child to help get the school year started off right and show you will both be there for him or her.
4. Text a photo if you ex is unable to be there on the first day of school.
If your former spouse is unable to be there for your child's first day of school, you can always text her or him pics of the event so that they don't feel left out and can share in the event in some way
Texting a photo shows goodwill and your ex will most likely greatly appreciate it. They may want to text photos back to share with your son or daughter as well.
5. Inform your children's teachers that you have a blended family and make sure they know who everyone is.
After a divorce, your family probably became a lot more complicated, particularly if either you or your ex or both have remarried. At the beginning of the school year, be sure to let your children's teachers know who is in your family so that there isn't any confusion when your kid's step dad comes to pick her up from school. Many feelings have been unnecessarily hurt by lack of informing teachers ahead of time, especially involving families with same sex relationships.
It can get confusing for teachers when your kids talk about all of their different siblings, stepparents and parents. Although your kids might be able to explain who everyone is, it can be a lot more comfortable and clearer for everyone involved if the teacher understands ahead of time about the dynamics of your blended and extended family situation. They will appreciate not having to ask a lot of questions.
Another advantage that can come out of talking to your children's teachers is managing school books and supplies. If you tell the teachers that your children have two homes, they might be able to send two schoolbooks instead of one so they don't have to be hauled back and forth so much.
6. Go to parent-teacher conferences together if at all possible.
When you go into a parent-teacher conference as a family and team, it sends a very strong message to both the teachers and your kids. It shows that no matter what occurred in the past, that the child's best interests are what are being focused on today.
It shows you can work together as a team with the school and your children will feel supported and loved in everything they do.
7. If your former spouse lives out of state, have them call in to join the meeting that way.
Distance doesn't have to completely interfere with both parents being able to take proactive measures and being involved in their children's lives.
If your ex happens to live in another state, make sure that you schedule a time for parent-teacher conferences that works for both of you, and so that the out-of-state parent can be conferenced into the meeting.
8. Schedule times when you and your former spouse can go over the progress your children are making at school.
First of all, you want to ensure that no soccer game or book report ends up falling through the cracks. It is a good idea to have days scheduled for communication where you can update and discuss your childrens' lives.
You can either talk on the phone or exchange emails every week to discuss things like what tests are coming up, project updates, etc. If anything is time sensitive you can always exchange information via text or a call at times other than your weekly meetings. Everything else can be discussed at your regularly scheduled times to keep communication running smoothly.
The shared calendar option mentioned in #2 above can help with this.
9. Make sure your ex is included in the family tree.
No matter what your feelings might be about your ex, your children still need to have her or him be a part of their lives. Whenever there is a project calling for family photos or a family tree assignment, rise above any bitterness or hard feelings and include your ex spouse's family (including new spouses).
10. Get a group chat set up so that your children's progress and victories can be discussed.
One good idea to help with communication is to get a group chat set up that includes both parents and children so that texts can be sent whenever your kid needs some extra encouragement for bring a C grade up or if he or she really aces a test or assignment. This communication trick can really work wonders for your family.
The idea here is to to direct notes and reminders to the kids, but in addition both of the parents can also see them and if necessary comment on them. It also can be a nice way for both parents to be able to make encouraging and positive comments about one another in front of the children, like thanking them for picking up the kids when you were stuck in a meeting. That can show your kids that you are able to work together as a team and appreciate each other's efforts.
Click here to schedule some time to talk with Cristi about your situation.