Getting organised for back to school is like a military operation, especially if you have more than one child. So, if you are co-parenting with your children’s father, you are forgiven for feeling a tad overwhelmed.
Getting the school routine right for children living between two homes takes practice, but it is possible. And it is one of the most important things you can do for your kids.
See below for some handy back to school tips for separated and divorced parents.
And, in case you’re wondering who I am …
I’m Lucy, a veteran single mum and the founder of the website you are on! I spend my time helping other single mums embrace independence, redefine their paths and be the best they can be, all whilst being brilliant single mums. You can get more in-depth, personalised support from my “You’ve Got This” Single Mum eCourse.
BACK TO SCHOOL TIPS FOR SEPARATED AND DIVORCED PARENTS
1. GET THE COMMUNICATION RIGHT
Like with shared parenting in every situation, communication is key. Remember that you are working together to give your child the best possible chance at school. You will most likely know which form of communication works best for you as an ex-couple, so work with that. And stick to the facts, with some niceties thrown in for good measure.
2. BACK TO SCHOOL COSTS
If you are undecided as to who is paying for what when it comes to school, open the conversation early. Although Child Support payments generally cover school costs, myself and my ex split the larger amounts. Whatever you decide to do, keep your kids out of it so they don’t have to worry about money and can concentrate on the things that matter most … like choosing the perfect pencil case!
Get some great specials on school gear here: Find the best back to school deals in Australia 2023.
3. GET AN APP
Kids schooling can get really complicated. Along with parents evenings and sports days comes school trips, casual clothes day and project/homework deadlines. It can feel like a full-time job for any parent, especially those with kids at primary school.
For this reason, a co-parenting app is a life-saver. They offer shared calendars, expense recorders and message boards which are designed especially for separated families, and will definitely make school arrangements for your littles ones easier for everyone.
4. BUILD A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Most separated families have two parents who work. This can make life hard when it comes to pick-up, drop off and school events. To minimise stress, build a support system outside of yourself and your ex. This could be friends and/or family who you can call-on for a favour (and do a favour for in return).
If you feel you are lacking this at the moment, it is likely you will connect with other parents at the school who will become your support system. Having back-up is always a good thing and will offer security to you and your children.
Need help building a support system? It is one of many things that we cover in my “You’ve Got This” eCourse for especially for single mums.
5. TELL THE SCHOOL
It is really important to let your child’s school know if you co-parent, or if they are already at school, to let them know you have separated from your child’s other parent.
Please don’t feel guilt or worry because schools are used to working with separated families. Teachers are in better position to care for your children if they understand their home life. It also helps as they can put both you and Dad on their email list, ensuring you both get all school communication at the same time.
Back to school tips for separated and divorced parents (cont.)
6. GET A HANDLE ON THE HOMEWORK
Homework can easily become a bone of contention between separated parents … I speak from experience. This is because one parent will often take more responsibility than the other. If this is the case in your family, then explain to your child that homework is “their” responsibility, not the parents. This will encourage them to do it even if they are with the parent who is less enthusiastic about homework. It will also teach independence and responsibility.
For more homework help ready this: 7 Easy ways to help your kids with homework.
7. MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME
One of the hardest aspects of school when your child lives between two homes is getting uniform and school supplies from house to house.
There are stages of schooling that involve laptops, musical instruments, castles made of 100 toilet rolls and goodness knows what else … that is on top of the everyday supplies such as uniform, shoes, school bags and sports kits.
Work together to ensure everything is in the right place at the right time. And give kids some leeway if something is forgotten, it is hard to live between two homes and they are likely doing their best.
Here are some logistical ideas to help: 7 Superb ideas for moving kid’s stuff during handover.
8. SHOW A UNITED FRONT
Although you are a separated family, it is really great if you can pull together at the times that matter to show a united front for your child and their school.
Try to both be present for the first day of school, parents evening and sports days. It is not always possible, but even once or twice is enough to show you are a team and both care about their schooling.
9. EMERGENCY CONTACT DETAILS
Next on our list of back to school tips for separated parents …
Even in this modern day, school software systems don’t always cater for the separated family, I know our school doesn’t. This means they can record only one main contact. Decide between you and your ex partner, who this should be. Does one of you work nearer to the school and is more available if your child is sick? And ensure the school is advised to call the other parent if the first can not be reached.
10. IT’S OK THAT MUM AND DAD ARE DIVORCED
For some children, it can be very difficult to cope with the separation of their parents. Add to this the pressure of the school playground and awkward questions they may be asked by well-meaning (and not so well-meaning) kids, and life might seem unfathomably hard.
Help them decide how to communicate your separation to their peers. As well as constantly reassuring them that both you and their father love them and support them with everything they do.