Navigating the School Year Stress Free

As published in The Florida Villager

Navigating the school year is tough enough but when you are divorced and trying to co-parent with an uncooperative ex spouse, your job as the primary parent gets even more difficult and stressful. Here are some tips to lessen the stress of dealing with your ex:

  1. Make sure the school has your ex’s email and mailing address so that they can mail things directly to him. This takes you out of the picture.
  2. Any school papers that need to be given to your ex should be scanned and emailed or mailed. Don’t get the children involved by making them the messenger. Provide the teachers and coaches your ex’s email so they can email him directly whenever possible.
  3. Make sure the child has a set of uniform clothes at your ex’s house. Even if you have to buy it. That way that set becomes his responsibility and one less thing for you to worry about.
  4. Money is always an issue with exes. If you are dealing with an ex that feels since he pays you child support, you should cover ALL costs right down to book fair money, accept it and move on. Don’t make the child feel uncomfortable because he/she has to ask for book fair money. If the child will be staying with your ex on the night before the book fair, make sure they have money before they leave.
  5. Set up a calendar with your ex that clearly outlines days the children will be with him and times of pick up and drop off. This avoids any daily confusion. Its best to have a calendar set for at least 3-4 months.
  6. Have a set of books and school supplies at your ex’s even if you have to buy them. This way your child doesn’t have to worry about remembering where a certain book is, or lug things back and forth.
  7. Try to plan school projects ahead so that they are at one parents home and you’re not realizing the night before it’s due that your child will be with your ex.
  8. Take the emotion out of any emails or texts or phone conversations. Don’t get caught up in what is “right” or “fair”. The goal here is that your child is not worried or stressed and that the school year runs smoothly for you. It’s the daily drips and drabs that can unravel us as primary parents. With a little planning and acceptance of the way things are, it will be a better school year for you and your child.
  9. Talk with your ex regarding the consistency of staying in one home during exam weeks.

And here are some tips to help YOU at home………..

Get organized – Do this well in advance so there’s no rushing at the last minute to buy supplies, books and uniforms or to fill out paperwork.

Develop a command center – Set it up in a convenient location. Encourage the kids to write down on a white board the things they need at least three days in advance. Establish an out box for each child. As they unpack their book bags, they can put any papers you need to read or sign in the in box, and, in the morning, they can take whatever is in their out box. Post a calendar so they see what their activities are and any special items they need for that day. Children thrive on structure; they will have the security of knowing where to look for information, and they will learn responsibility.

A safe, stress-free area – Create a place where your child knows he or she can have quiet time. It can be a corner of their room that you set up with big pillows, a blanket, coloring books, crayons and music. Make sure it’s an unplug zone, with no computers or phones.

Set an example – Your point of view regarding stress invariably become theirs. Your mood sets the mood of your children.

Talk positively – Talk with your kids about the upcoming school year, and ask them which after-school activities they would like to participate in. Don’t overschedule them. Acknowledge their nervousness and brainstorm ways to ease it. Keep the focus on the positive and not about how the previous year went. Keep communication open by making yourself available to listen, not necessarily to talk. If they start to get anxious, redirect their thoughts to the fun they had over the summer.

School mode – About two weeks before the first day of school, talk with your kids and make sure everything is in place. Let them know that school mode begins during the last week of summer vacation. This means going to bed at the set school time. During that week, talk with them about your expectations, explain what the command center is all about and make a cheat sheet with their schedule, locker combination, teachers’ names and room numbers.

Once school starts, establish a nighttime routine of packing lunches, getting school clothes out, setting the alarm clock and putting the backpack by the door. In the morning, don’t throw open the bedroom door and yell “Time to get up.” Give the kids a few minutes of cuddle time before you turn on the light. Make them a healthy breakfast and send them out the door with a bottle of water. Staying hydrated means less fatigue and a better mood and memory. After school, give them play and quiet time and a structured time and environment in which to do their homework.

And last, but certainly not least, it is never too early to teach your children to think positively and to laugh as often as they can. Except, of course, in class.


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