Back-to-School can be a stressful and emotional period for both children and parents. This can be true for all families, but if there was a recent separation or divorce in your family, you are likely starting the school year with a ton of new logistics and feelings to consider. Children can be especially anxious at this time. What will they tell their friends? Their teachers? Below are some things to consider in the early weeks of school to help your new family arrangement work smoothly and to ease any anxiety in your children.
Alert Teachers About the Divorce
Teachers need to know that your child is navigating a big change at home. Let the teacher know the child’s transition schedule between homes. Ask the teacher to look out for big feelings your child may be having at school and to alert both parents if they have any concerns. Some schools also have therapy groups for children of divorce and often there is a counselor on staff if your child needs someone to talk to.
Prepare Your Child to Talk to Peers About the Divorce
Peers are going to be curious about divorce and what it is like to live in two homes. Prepare a role play for your child by asking them questions you imagine peers may have and allow your child to practice answering. Encourage your child to refrain from answering any questions they might find uncomfortable. Ask your child to think about what they want their friends to know and understand about the divorce.
Work With Your Co-Parent on a School Access Plan
Some divorced parents are able to be in the same room with no conflict or drama and some are not! Decide early whether or not you and your co-parent can attend school functions together without causing a scene or making your child feel uncomfortable. Often the school environment is the first place divorced parents have to navigate together in public. It is critical that conflict is minimized at your child’s school. If you know that will be difficult to accomplish, then make a plan to rotate with each other for school functions. Some parents will need to involve a 3rd party to help them come to an agreement about school access.
Alternatively, if you are able to collaborate and work together with no issues, the school is a great place to show your child that you are still a team. It can also help teachers to know that there is collaboration between the homes and whether they need to communicate things separately or together.
Involve a Therapist or Counselor if Needed
For most kids in can take a year or more for them to feel settled and into “new normal” post separation. They may have a lot of challenging feelings and behaviors during that time as they navigate the loss, fear and uncertainty. Parents are also going through loss, change and very high levels of stress. It is hard to be the best parent during this time! A family therapist can often work with you and your child to explore whether your child’s feelings and behaviors are a normal response to divorce and will improve over time, or whether further intervention is needed. A therapist can also help you and your co-parent learn how to parent from different homes with the least amount of conflict possible.