Getting back to school is an exciting time. From sharpening pencils to planning new activities, trying on new school clothes to choosing what band instrument to play - the fall is often full of adventure and opportunity.
For families that have recently experienced a divorce, it can also be overwhelming, frustrating, and a little frightening.
There are new schedules to manage, new housing to adjust to, and maybe even a new school to get used to.
So, how can you navigate this new situation so that parents and kids alike adjust with ease?
One of the most important elements in managing this adjustment is community.
It Takes a Village
There’s an old saying that, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and this saying holds a lot of truth. When divorce or separation occur, it’s the people you know and love who will get you and your child through the hard times.
Here are some important tools to remember when you’re adjusting to the start of school after a divorce or separation.
Invest In Your Family
Family is family - even when it’s changing, evolving, and adjusting to a new family structure. The start of a new school year is an important time to make sure your child is surrounded by loved ones - whether it’s just you and your co-parent, or extended family members.
“The transition back to school is an important time to set up systems and routines, lay out expectations for every member of the family, and establish a sense of predictability,” says an article in Offspring.
Your child needs to know that - whatever else is changing and evolving - they are surrounded by loving people who care deeply about them. Make sure your child gets to spend ample time with you and your co-parent. And don’t stop there.
Whether it’s aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins, make time for extended family to be involved in your child’s life. Building a family that your child can count on will go a long way in easing the transition to the start of this new school year.
Build Your Community
“Children are... designed to form multiple attachments, to many of the people in a community,” points out an article in Psychology Today.
For children whose parents have recently divorced or separated, this larger community is even more critical. A reliable network of friends, colleagues, teachers, and extended family members will help your child feel grounded and connected - even when things are changing.
Offspring points out, “Your children need a community of adults who are on their team, helping them learn and grow and thrive.”
As the new school year approaches, make a point to invest your energy in maintaining healthful connections in your community. You will benefit along with your child.
Divorce and separation are often about people moving apart. As the new school year unfolds however, make a point of celebrating being together.
Spend evenings together with your child, host dinner parties or potlucks, and take time to go to concerts, festivals, or other gatherings. Build connections throughout your community and within your family. This will help both you and your child thrive.
Summary of Part I: In part one of this series we talked about how communication can help streamline the transition to a new school year.