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6 Back-to-school tips for newly single parents

School starts soon and many will be facing the return to classes as divorced families for the first time. For those who divorced during the spring or summer, this can represent logistical and emotional challenges for both parents and children.

If you find yourself in this situation, just remember that whether you have joint custody or sole custody, whether you are on friendly terms or not, your children need the efforts of both parents to help make their school year a success. Mind-set, communication, organization and love are the key elements in adjusting to a new school year as a split family. Here are six tips for ensuring that your children adapt and thrive despite your divorce.

1. Learning zones

If your child will be spending time living with each parent, even if just a few days a week or month, it is important to make sure that each house has a study zone and the necessary school supplies. You want to avoid the all too common problem of leaving school materials at the other house the night before a project is due.

2. School communication

Keep communication lines open with teachers. Discuss the changes in your family with the grade level team or the school counselor. Classroom teachers tend to be more understanding if they are aware of what is happening at home. Also, make sure to update the school with any address changes.

3. School conferences

If possible, attend parent-teacher conferences together. Be sure to focus on positive strategies to help your child rather than scolding, assigning blame or bickering. Remember, parent-teach conferences are about your child, and he or she needs your cooperation.

4. Be present

One or both parents' attendance at extracurricular events is crucial. This may require coordination with your ex-spouse, but remember that you are doing it for your child. It is hard to quantify just how important a parent's presence is at a school play, soccer match or concert. You don't need to be married to share the photos either.

5. Talk honestly

Don't ignore the elephant in the room when you're with your children. Start the conversation and be honest about your experience, but accept their silence if they aren't ready to open up yet. Assure them that though there will be difficult changes, they will adapt to a new normal. Driving can be the perfect time since you have both a captive audience and a lack of awkward eye contact.

6. Love

As you send your young learners off on the first day of school, say "I love you." Let this be the last phrase they hear as they skip off to class and when they come in the door, ask about their day. You will be their rock (a loving rock) in a sea of change and uncertainty.

Every family will require a unique approach, so take these guidelines as just that - guidelines. The above are just ideas on how to start the school year off on the right foot as your family adjusts to this "new normal."

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Frank Family Law Practice
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