Life After Divorce: Navigating Back to School as a Team
Divorce in and of itself means separation, but if you and your former spouse have children together and both intend to stay active in their lives, that separation can never be 100%. This fact is particularly evident when it’s time for students to head back to the classroom for a new school year, and for kids in and around the greater Tampa area this week, that time has arrived. Children of parents who have recently divorced, or even those who have lived in a divided family for a long period of time, can suffer effects from that separation in the classroom that you may not be aware of as the parent. Many of these challenges can be prevented with a little bit of understanding and teamwork on the part of all parties involved. So what should you know as you send your child back to school?
First, remember that your child’s teacher(s) will not necessarily be aware of their family dynamics. For younger students this can be an even bigger impact as common classroom language (“go home and tell your mom and dad”) class parties (Donuts for Dad or Muffins for Mom days), and other day-to-day parts of their schooling are affected by not having constant access to both parents. For example, what is to happen if your child’s Donuts for Dad party falls on a week when mom has custody? It seems like a minor complication, but it’s one more way your child will feel left out if you don’t plan ahead and arrange a solution. Having an open and honest conversation with your child’s teacher is a great way to look ahead at the school year and have a game plan for making it as smooth as possible for your child. Perhaps the teacher can offer you a copy of her classroom schedule for parties, events, and seemingly insignificant happenings that will require a little bit of extra prep on your part. Additionally, the teacher will be aware of the sensitive topic of divorce with your child and can better provide support for him or her during the school year.
Additionally, it’s important to stay consistent. While you and your ex spouse are no longer living in the same household or on the same schedule, when it comes to your kids keeping a routine is key in their success. If possible, come up with a plan together that helps solidify school-year bedtimes, drop-off/pick-up routines for school days, plans for sports practices and other extracurricular activities, etc. While you are no longer married, you are both still on the same side, or “team” of your child, and that means teamwork and working together, even when it might be a little uncomfortable at first.
Finally, respect boundaries with your ex. Have a plan and definitely hold the other accountable if things are falling through (homework isn’t being checked when they are with one particular parent, child is continually late to school, teacher has complaints about behavior when child is with one parent, etc.), but don’t constantly check up on your ex or interject yourself into their time with your child if there aren’t serious concerns. Respect is mutual, and if you want them to give you space as a parent, you need to do the same.
Good luck to our local students and parents as you kick off another great school year. If you are currently in the middle of a difficult divorce, or are facing a separation in the near future, let us support you while you support your family. Sessums Law Group is proud to provide top-quality legal services for clients throughout the Tampa Bay area. We are committed to getting the best results for your individual case, and clients trust us to STAND FOR THEM when they need representation in the courtroom, around the mediation table, or simply during the beginning phases of a divorce settlement. How can we help you?