Learn how to help kids adjust to separation or divorce as they are heading back to schoolThe back-to-school transition can be challenging for any child, and the addition of family changes, such as separation or divorce, can make this time even more stressful.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to help your children have a smooth and successful transition into the school year.

  1. Share information with your child(ren)’s teachers. Give the teacher a heads up about the separation or divorce so that they can provide support to your child as needed.Sharing this information during back-to-school time may feel awkward because the child and parents do not already have an established relationship with the teacher. Some children or teens may be uncomfortable with parents sharing info with their school until they get to know their teacher better. It is important for parents to use their best judgment and talk through a plan for how to tell the teacher. Some kids may want to be a part of that or do it in their own way. It is important for kids to understand that it is ok to express their feelings about the separation or divorce with people outside of the family. Saying that this is a “family thing” or a “secret” may increase the stigma and sense of shame that kids may feel. Talking to your child about who they might like to tell and how to use appropriate boundaries with new friends is important.
  1. Grant both parents shared access to school personnel and school planning from the start. This is great way to develop good co-parenting habits even before the divorce is finalized.You can make sure that both parents are listed as contacts by the school and that both will receive e-mail notifications regarding school events and communications from teachers. Setting the tone from the first day of school that you are both involved and participatory parents will show your child that you are working together and will still be there for them at important life moments.
  1. A family’s transition that involves a new school can be especially tough on kids. Make several trips to the school before the school year starts to familiarize your child with the new surroundings.
  1. Make sure your child gets back to a consistent bedtime routine if that has changed during the summer months, or shifted as your family transitions to two separate households from one. This can happen as soon as possible and perhaps even the week before school starts.
  1. If you are starting a new co-parenting schedule, make sure your child or teen understands the schedule of pickups and when they will be at mom’s house and dad’s house.Many times these transitions occur at school and so preparing them for what they will need to bring with them to school will help ease the transitions, especially if they are doing it for the first time. For younger children, having a family calendar with mom’s house and dad’s house clearly written on it can help them to understand and keep track of time. Consider a “trial run” a few days before school starts, so that children can get used to their new schedules with mom and dad.
  1. Children who are used to certain routines, for example “I always do homework with dad,” will need support and encouragement from both parents to adjust to new ways of doing things. Being sensitive to these reactions while also being consistent with expectations can help. Parents will also need to be aware of areas in which they may need to grow as a parent and take on roles that they may not have needed to take on pre-divorce. Be kind to yourself and know that it takes time to re-establish new school routines and norms. 

About the Center For Out-Of-Court Divorce

When families come to the Center for guidance during transition, we help identify and address the unique needs of each family member—including both parents and kids. Our separation and divorce services include things like the development of a co-parenting plan, and legal and financial education, as well as therapy and mediation to help families address their concerns and move forward with a realistic plan for what their family will look like and how it will function in its new configuration.

Every family is different and we tailor our services and sessions to fit each family’s specific needs. Big life changes, like kids heading back to school, can be a challenge for families in transition and/or conflict, but with the support of our team we help families navigate them successfully.


By COCD Clinical Director Denise Breinig-Glunz

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