5 ways to score an A+ as a divorced parent

By Tonya Graser Smith

Back-to-school season means teacher conferences and an opportunity to start fresh when it comes to making sure the kiddo’s homework gets done. For divorced parents, school can be tricky ground to navigate. For the sake of their kids, here are five lessons for getting it right and making sure everyone gets an A+.

  1. Show up and stay plugged in.

Which parent attends the teacher conferences? You both have to be there. It’s not fair to ask the teacher to summarize what took place for the parent who was unable to attend or chose not to. Unless there is an agreement that one parent summarizes for the other parent, both parents need to be there and listen to what the teacher has to say about what their child is learning and what is expected.

Ditto teacher and school emails. You both need to sign up to receive those – and read them and stay current on what’s happening in the classroom and on campus. There’s simply no delegating these tasks like there might have been when you were married and living under the same roof.

  1. Strive for consistency and routines.

Keeping track of backpacks, lunch boxes, sports gear, permission slips and homework is hard enough in one house, and your kids are shuffling their stuff between two homes. Aim for consistency about where schoolwork and school forms are located and where backpacks are kept at each house. At mom’s place, maybe bags are stowed by the front door and homework and forms she had to sign are collected at the kitchen island. At dad’s, maybe’s it’s the hall closet and dining room table.

Each parent should also be consistent about checking homework, reading logs and anything else sent home. Again, don’t rely on the other parent to be the school parent; it’s on both of you.

  1. Get on the same page about bed times.

This is about routine, too. Try to agree with your ex on what time the children go to bed each night. Kids learn better when they’ve had enough sleep, and having them stay up an hour or more later at one house versus the other makes it hard for them to have a healthy sleep routine.

  1. Agree on which parent is contacted in case of emergencies.

While you both need to show up to school meetings and events, it’s unreasonable to expect the school to contact both of you in case of emergency. Decide which parent should be contacted first when your child is sick, injured or causing a ruckus. Hint: It should be the parent whose work or daily activity better suits being able to answer the phone, drop everything and head over to school.

The parent who responds to these events needs to alert the other parent. Another hint: With a phone call, not a text.

  1. Extra credit: Engage with your child in his or her natural setting.

Kids love it when parents spend part of their school day with them. The pre-teen might feign indifference or embarrassment, but she really does want to know that you care and know who her friends are and what her day looks like. Surprise your kid by having lunch in the lunchroom. Sign up to chaperone a field trip or be a guest reader in the classroom.

The school year is still brand new. Here’s to you and your kids learning and growing together — and getting straight A’s.