It’s September. For kids, it’s the month of new teachers, new subjects, even, for some, a new school. For divorced parents, it often means the start of new confusion about how to relate to the new school or grade and new teachers.
Yes, some divorced parents have got this well in hand. But if you don’t have a plan that works, here are some practical suggestions that will prevent adding stress to kids who are already anxious about the new school year.
Keep the kids out of the middle.
If you and your ex have differences of opinion about school-related issues or concerns about a teacher’s approach, deal with each other and the teacher directly. Please, please, don’t involve your kids. They need to be focused on their education, not anxious about conflict between their parents or a parent and a teacher.
Keep the teacher out of the middle.
Ditto for the teacher. If you and your ex are in disagreement with each other, please don’t ask the teacher to side with you, to carry messages to your ex, or to keep your concerns from your ex. The teacher’s job is your children’s education, not your divorce agreement (or disagreement).
Please remember that teachers are dealing with multiple stresses every day: They must manage 20 to 30 kids all day (more than 150 a day in secondary school), lesson planning, the stress of standardized tests, and whatever personal stresses they are under. They may be sympathetic, but it’s too much to ask that they mediate your problems with your ex, even if those problems relate to your children’s education.
Develop a realistic plan for obtaining information regularly.
Think about it: It’s no longer unusual for more than half of the kids in a given class to be from separated, divorced or never married couples. It is too much to expect schools and teachers to take responsibility for communicating with everyone about all things.
Teachers are not obligated by law to send duplicates of every piece of paper that goes home with your kids. General notices about things like bake sales, school events, parent-teacher organization meetings and after school activities are generally not thought significant enough to create a packet for each parent.
However, unless there is a court order or state law, schools are under the legal obligation to respond to requests for school records from both parents. See a copy of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERFA) at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/parents.html . Educate yourself to your rights so your requests to school personnel are reasonable and legal.