We’re nearing the end of summer, and you know what that means: it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school. Some districts have already started, but most still have at least a few weeks left. This time of year often gets hectic and stressful for children as well as parents. For newly divorced dads, it may be a whole new experience.
The new school year brings a number of new difficulties and challenges for both. Kids meet new teachers and classmates and may even start at a different school. Even having to do homework on a regular basis again takes some adjusting. Newly divorced dads also need to adjust to a new situation.
While the new school year presents hurdles, it also comes with possibilities. Your kids get the chance to meet new people and have new experiences. And divorced dads can take the opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your kids in a variety of ways.
Being a fixture in your children’s lives is especially vital after divorce. The experience likely shook up their world. And while you may not spend as much time with them as before, it’s important to take advantage and make the most of the time you do have together. Whether this is your first school year among the ranks of divorced dads, or if you’re an old hand at this, here are some tips and suggestions to help get you start it off on the right foot.
1. Stay Involved
While not seeing your kids as much may represent a big change for newly divorced dads, that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in their lives. Take advantage of the opportunities you do have, and new school years offer a number of chances to do just that. You have many chances for engagement at home, at school, and with extracurricular activities. Maybe your daughter’s soccer team can use an additional coach. Perhaps you have time to volunteer in your son’s classroom. This may be as simple as taking the time to check in and ask how the new school year or how your kids like their new teachers. It’s good information to have and it lets them know you care.
2. Share Current Contact Info
Schools need to be able to contact parents in case of emergencies. To that end, it’s important for recently divorced dads to make sure the administration has the most current information on file. Take a few minutes to check that the school has your most recent phone number, address, work number, and email. If you have any custody restrictions, let them know. Most schools keep records of who is and isn’t allowed to pick up kids in addition to who to get in touch with when necessary. Keep them up to date on any schedule changes or alterations.
3. Get to Know the Teachers
Aside from you, your ex, and other family members, your child’s teachers probably spend more time with them than any other adult. They see each other every day. It’s always a good idea to have an open, clear line of communication. Not only is it always nice to have a face to go with a name, but it can help you keep tabs on your child’s progress, track any behavioral issues, and get a general sense of how they’re doing when you’re not around.
4. Talk to Your Kids
Communication forms an important part of any relationship. But it’s especially vital for divorced dads to talk to their kids. Sure, you’ve been through a tough, traumatic time. But so have they. And a new school year and all the change that comes with it enhances that upheaval. Just like you, your kids have a lot going on. Make sure you take the time to check in with them, find out how they feel, and ask what you can do to help. The better your communication, the more likely they are to let you know if they’re having issues or come to you with problems. It’s easier to assess their needs when you know what they are.
5. Consistency Is Key
During tumultuous times, like divorce, establishing a regular, consistent schedule often provides comfort for kids. It’s probably not the worst thing for divorced dads, either. While divorce can create anxiety and confusion, sticking to a structure often goes a long way toward alleviating these feelings and re-establishing a sense of normalcy. Set aside a specific time for the kids to do homework every night and try to eat dinner at the same time. There’s bound to be some fluctuation, especially with shared custody, but keep the kids up to date on any changes. Knowing where they’re going to be, when, and with who, provides a sturdy framework.
6. Work With Your Ex
This one becomes tricky for many newly divorced dads. Even if you never want to see or talk to your ex again, when you have kids, that’s not usually an option. Shared custody has complications in the best of times, and going back to school adds to those difficulties. But you and your ex have a lot you need to do. There are pick ups and drop offs to schedule, daycare and babysitters to arrange, and after school activities to plan. It’s not always easy, but it’s a necessary part of co-parenting. Fortunately, many online tools and apps exist to lend a hand. One option is to set up a shared calendar to keep tabs on important upcoming events and to track who needs to pick the kids up at piano lessons. This helps you know where you need to be.
Going back to school presents a number of challenges for children and parents. And as with most things, divorce only adds to the potential complications. Sometimes divorced dads run into speed bumps this time of year. There’s quite a bit to deal with and it’s often still new. But there are steps to take and strategies to use to help everyone through a hectic time.
If you have questions about divorce, custody, or other family law matters, contact Goldberg Jones at our Seattle office.