Back-to-School from Two Houses
Anticipation and fear traditionally mark the first day of school—for both children and their parents. As children head back to school, parents worry. They worry about how to pay for all the books, clothes, and technology. About whom will influence their children. About how to balance their own work with children’s activities. All this plus confusion over how COVID-19 will change school— fear begins to outweigh anticipation.
The challenge is even greater for divorced couples. How will children cope with moving between houses and changing routines? How will parents keep up with supplies and activities—especially if parents don’t easily share information? How will they share the load if classes go back online? A few tips ease the transition and build healthy family life—even from two houses.
Tip 1: Communicate expectations
The first step for a better school year–parents meet and craft a plan.
Most conflict comes from miscommunication or unmet expectations. When parents share expectations (for homework, for chores, for sleepovers), conflict fades. Many parents realize that, in general, they are on the same page. Where they disagree, they can decide what to do.
If parents struggle to communicate—2houses.com or ourfamiywizard.com offer helpful online communication platforms for divorced parents.
Or, parents can find a facilitator to help them create a common plan.
Issues to address include:
- How do we share communications from school/teachers?
- How do we work together to support our children’s learning—what homework patterns will we follow? Who will follow up with teachers? How do we get the supplies they need? How will we share the load if COVID moves school online?
- What policies do we follow for extra activities—when do we say yes and when do we limit? Who will pay for each activity?
As parents answer these questions, they build a framework for making decisions which guides them through the year
Tip 2—Address Finances
Between clothes, books, and fees—school costs have escalated. Job losses or cutbacks may make this even harder. Financial stress often paralyzes parents who believe they have no options. While one parent may feel the child support they pay satisfies their obligation, the other parent may not be able to make ends meet if they pay the school expenses.
Putting all the school expenses on a spreadsheet or whiteboard helps parents see the challenge. Raw numbers reveal the issues and motivate parents to cooperate to provide for their children.
Tip 3: Plan for common events
Whether the school play or the tennis match, children generally want both parents present. Jeff Pokone, noted family counselor, states, “The definition of a mature adult is a person who takes responsibility for the impact of their own dysfunction on other people.”
When parents can’t get along—that’s dysfunction. Sometimes it’s just the way it is. However, parents should take responsibility for how that dysfunction impacts their children. Mature parents find a way to be part of special events and keep the focus on celebrating the children—not wounding each other.
When parents can play nice, sitting together is the best option. Children focus on basking in parental praise, rather than feeling the pressure of deciding which parent to approach first or how to evenly split time.
If it will not work to sit together, parents should ease the situation for their kids by finding separate spaces, plastering a smile on their faces, and helping children enjoy their event without worry for either parent.
Though summer just started, kids will soon head back to school. Creating a plan helps ease fears and build anticipation.
If you need help building a plan, email info@TheResolutionCenterIndy.com or call 317-344-9740 to talk with a trained family mediator who can help you process through the issues. We look forward to serving you.