If you are like most parents, you spent this past weekend thinking about what your kids needed to be ready for school, which can be stressful enough by itself. If you are like some of my clients, you may have spent part of the weekend also worrying about how to navigate through the beginning of school with your kids’ other parent, which can just add to the stress.
I want to take this moment to share with you some tips that all parents need to consider and also share some additional tips for those parents who are raising their kids in separate households to help alleviate the stress and help you enjoy what is surely an exciting time for your children!
1. Breathe. First and foremost, breathe! If you have been separated for awhile, and you are anxious about the school year because history proves this year may be a struggle with your children’s other parent, take a deep breath! Say the serenity prayer, resist being pulled into the struggle, resist drama created by the other parent, and try not to sweat the small stuff.
2. Check your custody Order. The biggest concern my clients have when facing a new school year is the fear of being left out of important information regarding their children. They worry the teacher won’t know how to contact them, or they worry they may be blocked from getting access to their children’s records. If you are raising your children apart from their other parent, you likely have a custody order outlining your roles and responsibilities. The vast majority of parents share legal custody. What this means is that each of you have an equal right to contact the school, the teacher, the doctors, etc., to make sure you know what your children need to be ready for their first day and the right to keep in contact with everyone to track your children’s progress. If you are not sure if you have shared legal custody or the right to directly contact the school, check with your lawyer before taking any action that may go against the order you have. Some parents readily share information with one another and are able to successfully work together to make sure the school knows about their situation and knows to contact both parents. However, for some, this is just not their reality. For the parents who are in this category, my advice is simple. Call the school and let them know your children live in two households and ask that they contact you, in addition to the other parent, if there is an emergency. The same advice is true of doctors and other caregivers of your children. If you can’t keep the dialogue open with your children’s other parent, take steps to keep the dialogue open with everyone else who interacts with your children on a regular basis.