Whether kids like it or not, the summer is winding down. Hillsborough County schools are set to start August 10.
While parents may herald the back-to-school season with enthusiasm, going back to school can be stressful for kids - especially if they have undergone a divorce or parental separation this spring or summer. Children may be facing a new school district or a different daily routine now that Mom or Dad is out of the house.
As a newly single parent, understanding your child's fears or questions can go a long way in easing the stress of this period of adjustment in their lives. Here are three practical ways to help your child adjust to going back to school:
1. Listen instead of offering advice.
Listening to your child may be the single most important thing you can do for them during this transition. Find a place that is safe for the child to open up and share what is on their mind. Ask open-ended questions and then wait for their answer. Don't try to finish their sentences before they have a chance to answer. Kids need a safe place to vent; ask questions and simply talk about their day.
2. Communicate openly and often.
The importance of communication cannot be emphasized enough. Communicating with your child is just as important as communicating with your child's other parent. Even if your split wasn't on amicable terms, putting your differences aside can go a long way to making this transition easier for your kids.
Try to maintain a predictable school routine your child can rely on. Talk with them and your ex about details such as:
- Getting to and from school
- Pick up and drop off for after-school activities
- The procedure if the child becomes ill at school
These issues should be laid out clearly but simply so that everyone knows the drill. Notify the school or leave short notes in your child's backpack so that they aren't confused about who should be called to pick them up if they get sick or have an accident. Limiting the number of questions your child has to address on their own can decrease their anxiety.
3. Own up to the situation.
Don't attempt to hide your separation or divorce from key school personnel. Trying to hide your personal situation from your child's teacher and school administrators only leads to further problems. In all likelihood, your child will tell them if you do not.
Ideally, both parents should meet the child's teacher and discuss a plan for communication. This will help the child feel more comfortable as well as help make teachers and staff aware that your child may act out or struggle in new ways that they did not last year (assuming they are in the same school or school district).
You will get through this period
There is no rule book for helping kids of newly separated or divorced parents adjust, and each situation is unique. We cannot stress enough the importance of communication and listening to your child. Kids want to be heard and will tell you what you need to know. As a family, you will get through this time together.