It’s hard to believe it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school. Depending on where you live, it may have already happened. It’s always tough for the kids to give up the freedom of summer break and return to the classroom. But it’s often equally difficult for the parents, especially newly divorced dads. Adjusting takes time, but we’ve got some tips that may help.
The start of a new school year often presents a challenge. You’ve got new teachers, new classmates, and maybe even new schools. It may be uncharted territory. At best, getting used to doing homework again after two months off presents a definite change.
Despite the challenges, a new school year presents a fantastic opportunity to bond with your children and become more involved in their daily lives. This is especially vital for newly divorced dads. You may not see the kids as much, so it’s important to take advantage of the time you do have together.
This may be your first school year as a divorced dad or it may be your tenth. Regardless, we’ve got some tips and strategies to help begin the school year as smoothly as possible.
1. Meet the Teachers
Teachers see your kids every day. Depending on the grade, they may spend most of the day together. Outside of you and other family members, they’re likely the most important adults in your child’s life. As such, it’s important to open lines of communication. This can help you keep up to date on your child’s progress and stay aware of any issues that arise. Beyond that, it’s nice to be able to put a face to the name.
2. Update Your Contact Info
Newly divorced dads need to update their contact information with the school. Make sure they have the right address, phone number, email address, and emergency contacts on file. It’s also important to inform the school that you’re recently divorced and let them know of any custody restrictions. Most schools, especially for younger children, have strict rules about who can and can’t pick up kids and that sort of thing. You’ll likely need to establish a schedule with the administration and keep them up to date on any changes.
3. Split the School Supplies
Kids need lots of school supplies to start the year. There’s backpacks, calculators, pens and pencils, notebooks, art supplies, and maybe even school uniforms. It can add up to a small fortune by the end. Some parents may want to share the cost to ensure neither faces an undue burden. You may want to split the costs right down the middle. Or if a teacher sends home a list of supplies at the beginning of the year, you can also divvy it up, especially if one parent has an eye for certain items.
4. Coordinate and Communicate
Navigating shared custody gets tough, especially for newly divorced dads. You may not want to work with your ex or have any contact, but it’s important to coordinate. This includes who’s going to pick up or drop off the kids at school, arranging daycare or babysitters if necessary, and scheduling various after-school activities. A variety of apps and online scheduling resources exist for divorced dads and moms. You can set up a shared Google calendar to keep things straight and make sure you don’t miss any important events like games, plays, and parent-teacher meetings. Some parents also set up group chats so both mothers and fathers can keep current with the children’s daily lives. If you have problems communicating face-to-face, this often provides a useful, relatively easy alternative.
5. Stick to the Routine
While going back to school is stressful for newly divorced dads, it’s even more so for your kids. Establishing a routine can provide comfort and consistency. The kids know where they’re going to be and when. Make sure they know who’s going to pick them up from school, who will take them to soccer practice, and the like. Set specific times when they need to do homework, try to eat dinner at the same time, and keep a regular bedtime. Divorce can wreak havoc on a child’s life, and stability can be a powerful tool to help them cope. Some changes will happen, but try to maintain a steady, reliable routine as much as possible.
6. Get Involved
Newly divorced dads often have it tough. With shared custody and parenting plans, you likely don’t get to see your kids as much. While your time together may have limitations, it’s important to make the most of it and be involved. When it comes to this time of year, that can take many forms. This includes:
- Asking them about their day and how school is going.
- Communicate with their teachers to make sure you know of any problems they may have.
- Help them with their homework, (especially if they’re struggling in a certain subject).
- If they participate in extracurricular activities, find ways to lend a hand.
- Maybe you can help out with sets for a school play or the football team could use an extra coach.
These are good ways to get involved and show your kids how much they mean to you.
7. Talk to Your Kids
Just like it’s important to communicate with your ex, it’s important to communicate with your kids. Going back to school can be tough, and so is going through a divorce. Taken together, your kids have a lot going on. Take the time to talk to them. About school, about how they feel about the divorce, and about life in general. Keeping open lines of communication helps you stay aware of any problems they have, at school or otherwise. If they’re used to talking with you, they’re more likely to share instead of bottling up and letting emotions fester. And it also strengthens the parent-child bond. It’s your job as a parent to help steer your child in the right direction, and this is especially important for divorced dads.
Going back to school is a tough time for kids and parents. As with most things, divorce only makes it that much more difficult. Divorced dads don’t always have it easy, but you can take steps to help the process go as smooth as possible.
If you have questions about divorce, custody, or other family law matters, contact Goldberg Jones at our Portland office.