As the long summer holiday draws to a close, there will be parents all over Devon (and the rest of the UK) who will be relieved that school starts back next week. If you are working parents, you will have been juggling your childcare and work commitments for the last 6 weeks which can be exhausting. If you are a separated parent, you will have possibly had a harder time organising everything over the summer.
There are plenty of guides about how to juggle the summer holidays as a separated parent, but often the start of the school term or year can be just as daunting for separated parents. If you have little ones starting reception it can be a stressful time with the worry of pick up times, uniform and packed lunches whilst dealing with a separation too.
It is also very important to think about things from the child’s point of view, starting a new school and settling in with new teachers, friends and timetables can cause anxiety if everything is turned upside down at home with a recent divorce or separation.
As with anything, communication is the key to making things as easy as possible for both parents and the children alike. A regular and clearly defined routine between you, the parents, will be very important so that your child will always know who is picking them up from school. Working out a schedule that fits with both of your work commitments can be done but it will take organisation and communication.
Clear communication with the school will also be necessary so there are no mix ups, they will need to know who will be picking up each day, particularly with young children in reception.
Sharing and Coordinating the Expense
Once children are at school, there are many expenses that will need to be covered and discussed between you. As mediators, we see many cases of conflict between parents around the finances which could be avoided with planning and compromise.
School Dinners – This is a regular expense and soon mounts up particularly if you have more than one child. How you divide this cost will depend on your individual circumstances; how care is shared between you and maintenance agreements. If one parent is constantly having to pay arrears for the other parent at school, you can see how the arguments and resentment will grow over time.
After School Care – This can be a huge financial burden for parents who work, in most cases the division of this expense can be worked out according to the ratio of care or can be included in the maintenance plan.
Uniform and Shoes – It is quite amazing how often, shoes and uniform need replacing due to wear and tear or getting too small! If you have more than one child; kitting them out with all the shoes and clothes they need can be a huge dent in your budget. Pre-empting this cost will save a frenzied panic at the end of August, when you try to reach your ex-spouse for help with it.
School Trips – The cost of these becomes greater as the children get older and often letters will come home in your child’s school bag regarding cost and deadline. When children are living in two houses, it is all too easy for these notes to be mislaid and a payment deadline missed. For young children, they can’t be responsible for this type of thing and will only suffer if you can’t cooperate with each other as parents.
School Activities and Involvement
With most schools there will be an array of situations where parents will be invited to attend the school, this can be anything from parents’ evenings, through to school plays, fundraisers and fairs. It is important to remember that your interest and involvement in your child’s activities are so important to them. If you can set your difference’s aside to attend the nativity play to support your child, it will give them a real confidence boost. Providing positive support and showing that your love for your child hasn’t changed despite your separation will eliminate the effects of conflict between parents on your children.
Homework and Exams
Depending how much time your children spend with each of you in your separate homes will depend how much influence you will have on the completion of homework. Remember it is all to easy for kids to find a way to leverage parents who don’t communicate.
“I left my Maths book at Dad’s, so I can’t do my homework today”
“I did it all yesterday at Mum’s house”
These are great excuses that will work if you aren’t in communication as parents. In Infants’ school this is not so vital maybe, but as the kids approach their GCSE’s they need as much support from both parents as possible. It is during these difficult teen years that all the classic rebellion will come into force. Playing truant and experimenting with drink and drugs is any parent’s nightmare, this will be so much easier to monitor if you are coordinated as parents and the lines of communication are open.
Help for Parents
In an ideal world separated parents would remain friends and communicate with each other openly about their children and the arrangements for them. Sadly, there can be so many factors in these situations that prevent that from happening. Some find it just too hard to put their own feelings aside, perhaps there has been violence or one parent refuses to talk with their ex-partner.
Here at Progressive Mediation in Totnes, we have vast experience with mediating these types of conflict and provide comprehensive family mediation services and parent coordination services. Call us today for advice on 0788 903 9393.