We’re at the halfway point in August, and if it hasn’t settled in yet, it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. It’s already happened in some school districts. This is often a stressful time for kids and parents alike, but it’s especially hard on newly divorced dads.
The new school years arrives with many new challenges. Kids have to deal with new classmates, new teachers, and maybe even new schools. It takes time to get used to things. At best, having to do homework every night again takes some getting used to.
Even though it’s often challenging, the new school year also arrives with potential and possibilities. The kids can make new friends and learn new things. For newly divorced dads, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to get more involved in your child’s life and strengthen your relationship.
This is especially important following divorce. You may not have the chance to spend as much time with your kids as before, so it’s vital to make the most of it. You may be new to this whole divorced dads thing, or you may be an old pro. Either way, here are some tips and pointers to help kick off the new school year right.
1. Update Your Contacts
It’s important that the school be able to get a hold of parents in case of emergencies. If you’re a recently divorced dad, you need to update your contact information. Check that the administration has your current phone number, address, email, and emergency contacts. Let them know about the recent split and make sure they’re aware of any custody restrictions. Most schools need to know who is authorized, or not authorized depending on the circumstances, to pick up students. You’ll likely have to keep them updated on your schedule and any alterations.
2. Introduce Yourself To New Teachers
Outside of you, your ex, and immediate family members, teachers are often the most important adults in a child’s life. They see your kids every day and it’s important to have open lines of communication. It’s nice to have a face to put to a name when the kids talk about teachers. But it also helps you keep tabs on your children’s progress, any behavioral issues, and get a general idea of how they’re doing.
3. Communicate With Your Kids
While it’s important to talk to your children’s teachers, it’s also important for divorced dads to talk with their kids. You’ve been through a tough time, but so have they. A new school year and a new family situation is a lot to deal with. It’s key to take the time to ask how they feel about school and about the split. If they’re used to open communication with you, they’re less likely to keep things bottled up. The more you know, the better you can assess their needs and tell if they’re having problems. Being there to help guide them through tough times strengthens the bond you share.
4. Take an Active Role
New custody arrangements and living situations can be tricky for divorced dads. Not seeing your kids as much represents a big change. When you get limited time, do what you can to enhance what you have. Get involved and take an active role. Maybe your daughter’s soccer team needs an extra coach. Or maybe you can lend a hand painting sets on your son’s school play. It may be as simple as asking how the new school year is going. There are countless ways to play a part at home, at school, or with extracurricular activities.
5. Coordinate With Your Ex
This one often gets tough for newly divorced dads. You may never want to see your ex again, but when you have kids, that’s not an option. Navigating shared custody gets complicated, and that definitely comes into play when the kids go back to school. You and your ex also need to arrange pick ups and drop offs, daycare and babysitters, and any after school activities. Fortunately, there are a number of online tools and apps to help coordinate. Some parents set up a shared calendar to track visitation and important events like games, performances, and parent-teacher conferences.
6. Establish A Consistent Schedule
Setting a schedule, and sticking to it, can prove comforting for kids in what’s often a tumultuous time. It’ll probably do divorced dads some good, too. Knowing where they’re going to be, and when, provides consistency and structure for kids. Try eating dinner at the same time every night, set aside a particular time to work on homework, and even keep a steady bedtime. When you and your ex hash out the specifics, share with the kids. That way they know who’s going to pick them up from football or shuttle them to piano lessons. Divorce can create anxiety and confusion, but stability can help them cope and get back to feeling normal again. There’s bound to be some fluctuation, but try to maintain a schedule when you can.
After months of blissful freedom, going back to school is often jarring for kids. And probably for parents, too. Like most aspects of a child’s life, divorce only complicates this further. It’s not always easy for newly divorced dads to make the transition, but there are strategies you can use to prepare for this hectic time of year.
If you have questions about divorce, custody, or other family law matters, contact Goldberg Jones at our San Diego office.