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Divorced Parents Can Stay on Top of Academics

It may require organization and coordination, but with some advance planning both parents should be able to fully participate in their kids' school experiences.

Judging by the content of the emails I received following last week’s article on “The Impact of Divorce on Academics,” after divorce it can be challenging for parents to find a balance when dealing with academics.  Actually, the word I most often saw was “guilt,” which was not at all what I was going for.   

In the best of circumstances, it is difficult to find the time to check kids’ assignments, quiz them for spelling tests, help edit essays, and remember to sign the permission slip for the upcoming field trip. Throw in a divorce, two households with different rules, work, and multiple children, and it can seem impossible. 

In my quest to provide some support for divorced parents, I once again consulted psychologist Carol Shilliday, Psy D, and marriage and family therapist, Barbara Bennett, LMFT, and asked what divorced parents can do to help with academics. They shared the following tips with me:

  • Put aside feelings toward the ex-spouse and work with them as a parent.
  • Find a way to communicate with each other that feels comfortable. If speaking on the phone is too hostile, text or email instead.
  • If there was a parent who took the lead on academics when you were married, educate the parent who was not on what to do.
  • Inform the school of the divorce, and ask for separate report cards to be put in the teacher’s mailbox so your child can take two home. (Make sure the school has both addresses.)
  • Each parent should establish a separate relationship with the teacher. Call or email and ask to be added to the parent email list and for two copies of any communication to be sent home with your child. (If you have an older child, remind them to give you the information; if the child is younger, remember to check the backpack daily.)
  • Since you have been added to the email list you should know when curriculum night and conferences are, so put them on your calendar. Curriculum night is generally at the beginning of the school year and conferences are usually in November. 
  • Request either a separate conference or, if possible, attend the conference with your ex-spouse.
  • The parent who usually dealt with homework needs to relinquish control and encourage the other parent to step up.
  • Communicate with your child. Ask,” Can I see your planner?” “Are any tests coming up?” “Do you want me to quiz you?” “What did you learn in school today?” Or be more specific: “What did you learn about in social studies today?”
  • If it’s used in your child’s school, have the username and password for PowerSchool and check on grades from time to time (once a week is good). 
  • Make schoolwork a priority. Work first, fun later.

Barbara and Carol’s weekly divorce recovery seminar, “Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends, begins April 4 and is open to both men and women. For further information you may contact Barbara at 860-233-4321 or Carol at 860-967-8479.

Author’s note: I receive no compensation in any form from Barbara or Carol, or from any other source for recommending this seminar. I am providing this information merely as a resource for my readers. (Although if they would like to show their appreciation by bestowing dark chocolate-covered pretzels upon me, I’d be okay with that.)

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

About this column: West Hartford's Susan Schaefer, director and founder of Academic Coaching Associates, answers your questions about education.

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