Your children are about to go or have just gone back to school which creates many chances to help them get used to switching gears, remembering or learning new routines, and dealing with some inevitable reaction to things changing from summer schedule to fall.
Back to school is a very predictable change that parents and children have lived with for generations and is a particularly good example of how children need their parents’ help to navigate the passage.
As separated/divorced parents living in two homes, you and your children have extra changes to choreograph with your co-parent:
Which school (I hope this has been settled by late August)?
Which teacher (see above)?
What after school care and activities are possible, preferable, and scheduled for each child?
How do you deal with your child’s questions, reluctances, and excitement about the end of summer and the beginning of fall?
How much help do you need/do they need to be ready to go to bed and more importantly get up in time to be ready for school?
How much time does your particular child(ren) need to settle into the new routine?
These are ordinary and predictable family issues. Sometimes they are easily accomplished. In two households there can be serious differences between parents that lead to either tension/arguing or inability to plan.
Your kids need to have a ‘good enough’ plan and all kids do better when they know ahead what the plan is.
A ‘united front’ is the most ideal version to present to kids. “Your Mom or Dad thinks this is important,” “I know you are a little scared, and your Dad or Mom and I know you will settle in in a few days,” or “This is the best plan that we can arrange for this semester; your Mom/Dad and I will help you with this and keep trying to see if we can make a plan you like better next semester.”
When that is not possible, you need to extend the needed empathy to say, “It is really extra hard to have us take so long to decide on soccer/tennis/afterschool, etc. You might be disappointed that we couldn’t figure this out sooner. I’m sorry.”
You and your spouse can use your Collaborative coaches and child specialist to create new arrangements as well as learn skills to be proactive and effective as co-parents.
Elizabeth Salin, MFT, is a Divorce Coach, Child Specialist, and psychotherapist in San Rafael, CA