As summer comes to a close, children around the country begin to begrudgingly prepare for the start of a new school year, while their parents secretly (and sometimes even not so secretly) rejoice at the return to a routine. However, if your family endured major changes – like a divorce – over the summer and you find yourself preparing for the new school year for the first time as a single parent, you may be feeling a bit lost. You might have never imagined that there would be a day when you and your spouse were no longer together, or that your kids would have to shuffle back and forth between two households. It can be especially overwhelming to think about your kids starting school with a new custody or visitation arrangement in place that they may not be used to yet.

Everything new usually has a tendency to seem scary, at first. The good news is that children are extremely resilient! They will be looking to you for confidence as you both experience this new thing together, and there are several ways you can do that. In this blog, we will divulge the 5 most important things you can do as a single parent to send your child into their new school year!

  1. Establish A Bedtime And Morning Routine That Your Child Follows At Both Parent’s Houses

Nearly every parent can relate to the misery of having a child who can’t or won’t stick to a decent sleep routine. It can be especially difficult to readjust your child to going to bed and waking up earlier, after they’ve been doing both later for nearly three months. Research shows that having a consistent bedtime routine leads a child to have a better quality of sleep during the night, which can improve their working memory, attention, and other cognitive skills. However, you can’t expect your child to suddenly wake up two hours earlier on the first day of school without properly easing them into the routine. You may need to start establishing the bedtime routine up to two weeks before the start of school so that the drastic change isn’t so jarring.

If possible, communicate the need for a bedtime schedule with your child’s other parent – even on weekends. That way, the routine is the same or as similar as possible at both parent’s houses. This might look like eliminating the use of electronics one hour before bedtime, reading a book for 10 minutes, or playing one round of a board game together.

  1. Make Sure Pick-Ups, Drop-Offs, And Other Transportation Has Been Solidified

It’s hard enough to manage pick-ups, drop-offs, and transportation for most families, but it can be even more challenging for single parents. When it comes to this, both parents should be communicating to ensure the safety of their child, and answering questions like:

  • Will your child ride the bus to school? If so, what time is pick-up and drop-off? Do the bus routes pick-up at both parents’ locations, or only one?
  • If your child is not riding the bus to school, who will take them? Who will pick them up? Will one parent be responsible for pick-ups, and the other for drop-offs, or will it be split evenly?
  • If neither parent is available for pick-ups, drop-offs, or transportation to other activities, will a family member step in to help out, or will a babysitter or nanny be necessary?
  1. Make Sure Your Child Has The Supplies And Materials They Need

Purchasing the necessary supplies your child will need for the new school year should be an obligation shared by both parents, unless there is already a child support order in place that covers these items. If you aren’t able to take them to the store yourself, offering to help with the expenses could show your former spouse that you are ready and willing to put your differences aside for the sake of your children.

  1. Be Open With Them About The Changes, But Keep Their Thoughts Positive

Being open and honest with your children about the effects your divorce or new custody arrangement will have on their upcoming school year can go a long way toward easing their fears or any other unease they may be feeling. Depending on their age and maturity level, those conversations may sound a little different, but you can always maintain a positive undertone. You can talk about things like what they are most excited for in this new year, what they want to do differently, what they are worried about, or how you can better support them in their academics or extracurriculars.

  1. Be An Active Part Of Their Education 

Don’t sit back and hope that your ex-spouse stays on top of your child’s education. Both of their parents should play an active role in their lives, especially in their education. One of the best ways to do this is to open a line of communication with your child’s teacher(s) and stay up-to-date on their progress. Their teachers are not only the most valuable source for information regarding their academic performance, but also their social-emotional state. You can make the teacher aware of the recent change to the family dynamic and anything they need to know about the custody arrangement, so that they can identify any troubling behaviors and report them to you.

  1. Review The Agreed Upon Parenting Plan, Visitation Schedule, Or Custody Arrangement And Revise If Needed.

When you and your spouse finalized your divorce, you likely agreed upon (or had a judge determine) how custody would be divided, a schedule for visitation time, or a parenting plan that incorporated those components. It may be judicious for you and your ex-spouse to review the agreed upon plan to be sure that it is still suitable for each of you and your children. If you both determine that it no longer works efficiently, a family law attorney could collaborate with both parties to assist in making modifications to the existing plan. In the event that your child’s other parent is not receptive to changes, your modification attorney could advocate on your behalf to a judge, and prove that the changes would be in the child’s best interest.

The Hembree Bell Law Firm, PLLC Can Help You Become The Parent You Want To Be 

Being a single parent does not mean you are less of one. Some day in the future, when the first days of school are far in the rearview mirror, your children will look back and realize that despite everything, your love and care for them never wavered. If your former spouse is making it difficult for you to be the active parent you want to be, call our team today and book your free, no-obligation case evaluation!

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