October 13, 2014

Beginning the New School Year

Categories: Children in DivorceDivorceParents

184849475The beginning of a new school year is all about the juxtaposition of continuity and change.  We all remember the mix of excitement, anxiety, hope and worry that accompany this time of transition for children.  Parents want their kids to settle in safely and achieve success, while kids count on their parents’ support.

For many children, the changes marking the new school year are not only teacher, grade, classroom and classmates, but changes in their families because of divorce.  Here are seven tips for co-parents to support their children in this situation:

  1. Let your child know that you have contacted trusted adults at school (teacher, social worker, principal) to let them know about the family change, and have done so in a calm and respectful way.  Tell your child it is important that trusted adults at school know because they care about your child and will be available to offer empathy and support as needed.  Reassure your child that family information will be kept confidential by these trusted adults, and it is your child’s choice about whether and when to share information with classmates.
  2. Explore possible school-based resources for children whose parents are divorced.  Many schools offer specialized support groups as well as individual counseling resources for kids.
  3. Participate in beginning of school activities with your child as fully as possible.  Express interest, encouragement and enthusiasm for this important part of your child’s life.
  4. Establish routines that will support your child in homework completion, having family meals and getting to bed on time. Be sure to share information with your co-parent regarding school projects and homework assignments that will need to be worked on in both homes so your child experiences continuity of support.
  5. If your child participates in sports or other extracurricular activities and depends on parent involvement, be sure to arrange transportation and other logistics in advance so your child doesn’t worry.  If there are multiple children in a family, this often requires co-parent cooperation.
  6. Establish a joint online family calendar for scheduling child-centered events.  This is an effective way for co-parents to remain in the loop regarding activities for their children.
  7. If your children are experiencing transitions between homes as part of your parenting plan, be aware that they will benefit from your patience and empathy in this process.  Help them get organized, and be supportive rather than critical if they forget something at the other parent’s home.  It’s a big learning curve for kids.

A positive and responsive school experience can be an anchor for your child, especially in the midst of family change.  I hope this can be the case for every child this year.

Deborah ClemmensenABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deborah Clemmensen
Licensed Psychologist

Deborah Clemmensen, M.Eq., Licensed Psychologist was a child and family clinician for many years before her discovery of Collaborative Team Practice in 2000 motivated the transformation of her professional role from therapist to Neutral Child Specialist. This work---hearing the voices of every family member during a divorce or break up, keeping children at the center and out of the middle, and assisting parents in the creation of developmentally responsive parenting plans---is both a passion and a privilege. Find out more about Deborah's work at www.deborahclemmensen.com

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