Back to school tips for divorced parents…

Back to school tips for divorced parents should also include grandparents when grandparents are involved in care-giving for the children.

Studies have proven that children need the support of grandparents when family as they have known it has been altered. Grandparents as support caregivers help with transportation, before and after school care, homework support, and emergency pick ups. Grandparents are often available to attend school events and conferences when parents’ schedules conflict.

By having a mutually agreed upon plan in place, children will know they are supported by adults who have their children’s well-being as the most important thing in their lives…as it should be always.

Family attorney Michael Ian Bender served for many years as a Judge for Chicago’s Circuit Court of Cook County in the domestic relations division. Back in private practice, he’s received numerous queries concerning “back-to-school” co-parenting challenges.

“Developing a solid co-parenting plan for the school year is an absolute must,” says Bender. “Both parents and children need to be on the same page and know what to expect to avoid unnecessary conflict and anxiety.”

Thus, Judge Bender shares his back to school tips for divorced parents, and I for divorced parents who have the benefit of grandparents as care-givers.

Without serious planning, conflicts are bound to happen. (When it does, know how to de-stress.)

I’ve taken Judge Bender’s back to school tips for divorced parents and added some suggestions on how to involve care-giving grandparents for a smooth back to school transition…which should be consistently maintained throughout the year.

Communication, Cooperation, and Consistency are the keys to this plan.

Here’s how…

Back to School Tips for Divorced Parents | Include Grandparents

  • Update the School

    Judge Bender: Take time before school starts to reach out to the school and explain the family situation. Make yourself available to answer any questions they may have and let your children know that the teachers and school administrators are aware.

    Nana: In addition to informing of your family situation, be sure to notify school personnel (counselors, principal, vice principal, nurse) and each teacher who is responsible for your child during the school day that grandparents are involved as supporting care-givers. Inform them in what ways they will be involved: homework support, dropping off, picking up, and on-call for emergencies when needed.  If the school requires a password or code, be sure to give it to the grandparents for the above purposes. (I wrote the code on an index card and took a photo so it’s always in my phone – no name of school, only child’s initials.)

  • Start an Online Shared Calendar

    Judge Bender:  There are many activities that occur within the school year and it’s hard for everyone to keep up and stay organized. A shared calendar can be a perfect solution, so both parents (and children, if age appropriate) know the schedule and can plan accordingly.

    Nana:  Teach grandparents, if needed, how to access the calendar and to add days and times when they aren’t available. Color code the days/activities to show who is responsible to make it easily visible. School calendars and schedules are available online. A shared calendar can be updated as to days off, shortened schedules, and other school related information available to parents. It makes planning ahead so much easier when everyone concerned in able to submit and share.

  • Review and Split the Supply List

    Judge Bender: There’s no need for both parents to run out and start buying school supplies. Review the list and agree to split it up so the children can accompany one parent for the first 10 items, and go with the other parent for the remaining 10.

    Nana: Review back to school needs and wants list with parents and grandparents, agree on what each will contribute and cost, too, so that one does not tend to try to outdo the other. Kids will learn to play one against the other as soon as they catch on.  It’s good to let the child have input as to color, style, size, etc. so they feel their opinion matters and will be comfortable with their supplies and clothes when around their peers.

  • Drop the Kids Off Together

    Judge Bender: The first day of school can be a scary, overwhelming experience for even the most confident of kids. If at all possible, both parents should free up their schedules to be there together and show their support. If you can’t be there together, take a photo and send it to the ex.

    Nana: Send a photo of children in front of school at the entrance and of teachers, if possible, so grandparents know exactly where to meet up with the children. Along with the photo, provide location and procedures for signing out, etc.. If a school floor map is provided, then scan and attach a copy of that also. (Don’t forget address and driving directions, too! for GPS assistance.)

  • Keep Consistent House Rules

    Judge Bender: When the children are splitting their time between both parents’ homes, it’s important for the “house rules” to be consistent at both residences, especially during the school year. If bedtime on school nights is 8:00 pm at one parent’s home, then it must be the same at the ex’s.

    Nana: The rules should be the same when grandparents are caring for the children, whether it is before and/or after school…and other times, too…keep consistent house rules: snacks, homework, TV, video games, outside time, changing clothes, bedtime…spoiling is for weekends, holidays, and vacations.

  • Arrange for Duplicate Notifications

    Jude Bender: Although information should always be shared between the parents, it helps to arrange for separate, duplicate notifications about academic progress and school activities, so one parent is not responsible for copying and sending information to the other.

    Nana:  From experience as a teacher, I know this is best. If grandparents are involved in supporting homework and school activities, it works well to request notices be sent to the grandparents. No surprises and the children will know that the grandparents are aware, too. Schools have notification systems in place and teachers use great apps for notifying parents of class activities and privately communicate with parents as needed. If the teachers don’t, ask that they do! It helps for all to keep up-to-date in real time.

  • Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences Together

    Judge Bender: While this may be difficult, it’s so important to attend parent-teacher conferences as a team. It sends a strong message to the children that no matter what happened in the past, today you are united and have your child’s best interest at heart.

    Nana: An alternative to this is to schedule parent-teacher conferences on the same day or evening so that the teacher is sure to share the same information with each parent, not leaving anything out. My opinion, the children don’t need to know their parents weren’t meeting at the same time. Again, if grandparents are involved in overseeing homework, having grandparents attend conferences will show the children all their care-giving adults are united.

Daniel French’s audio interview with Judge Bender – excellent back to school tips for divorced parents added to the above tips for divorced parents. Great advice. Remember, include grandparents!