September 7, 2012

Back to school blues – tips for parents living apart

By Fiona Kendall, Partner

The opening of school gates across the UK this week after the long summer holidays can be traumatic for both pupils and parents.

For separated or divorced couples it can be even more of a challenge to minimise the anxieties of schoolchildren returning to the classroom curriculum – because it could exacerbate underlying issues behind the break up.

Many youngsters may have spent extra time with one parent over a relaxed break, or perhaps enjoyed long summer holidays – one with their mother and another with their father along with their respective extended families.

The demands of returning to rigid timetables, maintaining uniforms, preparing packed lunches and organising and overseeing homework are just some of the many processes and deadlines that can trigger pressure points – as reinforced by recent research highlighting that 56 per cent of couples attribute day-to-day domestic issues to be a major factor when separating.

If household arguments are attributable to underpinning the breakdown of a marriage, parents who are under pressure post separation or divorce can take some simple measures, as outlined below, to help achieve the best possible outcomes for children.

Reassure children about practical arrangements

If small children face the daunting position of starting school for the first time, they will seek reassurance and confidence about who is taking them to school and who is collecting them.

Keep the school informed

Update the school with details of how and where to contact both parents so they can include them in school activities, letters home and events.

Teachers can support children when changes arise in domestic arrangements that may affect pupils’ emotional or physical wellbeing such as a partner moving house or remarrying over the summer holidays.

Sing from the same song sheet

Presenting a united front can help children to settle quickly and enjoy their school experience.  This includes agreeing on key areas such as bed times, amount of television or computer games and space and time for homework. Setting aside personal grievances to attend parents’ evenings, school plays and sports days together ensures the child’s interests come first every time.

What tips do you have to share with us on ensuring that children look forward to term times as much as their holiday breaks?

Share your tips below or send us a tweet @helpwithdivorce.  If you have any queries, contact the team at Jones Myers on 0113 245 0055 or drop us an e-mail.