Back to School - Back to Basics
Back to School chalkboard and apple on books

For couples with children who have recently been separated or are currently going through a divorce, back to school can feel like you are sailing in high winds. While most families are bustling around getting prepared for the new school year and planning extra circular activities for their kids, couples going through separation and divorce will discover that this crucial transition is stressful on the family. The following tips will help you sail through the rough waters.

  1. Communicate with your school.  Inform the school of your recent separation and pending divorce.  Alerting the principal and teachers will help them understand and recognize emotional and physical changes your child may experience as a result of the marriage breakdown. Make sure you update contact information, as the children will now be living in two households. Where possible, schedule a joint parent teacher interview so that both parents are receiving the same update and information from the school at the same time.  Alternatively, if the relationship is not amicable, then request an individual parent teacher interview.
  2. Communicate with your child.  Prepare your children for questions at school and other activities such as curious schoolmates and other parents.  Discuss what queries are appropriate and inappropriate to address. Identify issues that are private to the family and guide the child to politely redirect and deflect these queries.  Talk openly to your children about the marriage breakdown. For younger children, the following video produced by Sesame Street is a good video that gently explains what divorce is:  http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/divorce
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff like unfinished homework or moments of acting out.  Focus on aberrant or uncharacteristic behaviour such as becoming withdrawn, and long periods of sadness or anger. Pay attention to signs that indicate your child may be experiencing a problem such as plummeting school grades.  How are they interacting with their peers? Are they losing friends – or suddenly hanging out with a new group of problematic kids.  Are they displaying extreme changes in behavior such as intense anger, lying, cheating, or stealing, skipping classes regularly, or fighting at school?  Are they developing physical symptoms such as sleep or eating disorders, unexplained stomachaches or headaches? Is there substance abuse? The Calgary Board of Education School Family Liaison can be of assistance to you and your family during these challenging times. The School Family Liaison is there to support your child in school.  Be involved in your children’s life. Consider volunteering in activities that they are involved in or just be there to show your support.  Above all, consistently support your child at home.

With school comes routine, and with routine comes a sense of security for your child.  Children need that security especially when the world as they knew it is now in chaos. Ready or not, couples with children who have recently been separated or are currently going through a divorce, September tugs on their sleeves to move forward to the next chapter of their new routine.  There will be some hesitation to transition from one household to two households. Take the necessary steps to start a new beginning by having clarity in communication with your child’s school and your family. September is like the start of a new year.  It is the time to embrace new challenges and sail through the rough water.

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
– Vincent Van Gogh