If you ask most divorcing parents about their primary worries during divorce, their children will be at the top of that list. How will they adapt? Will they be okay during the transition? Will the turmoil affect their schoolwork? Most children adapt just fine. Many find that transitioning from a household with tension and resentment to a single parent household makes them happier once the dust settles. As for that last question about school, you can help ensure that the answer is, “No, divorce will have no long-term effect on their schooling.” Parents splitting up shouldn’t mean missing the honor roll or not getting admission into their dream school. There are specific ways to support your child’s academic success during and after your divorce. Help your child avoid academic setbacks with these tips:
Agree with Their Co-Parent on a Plan
If dad lets them stay up until 11pm watching TV, the pm “lights out” rule in mom’s house feels much more burdensome. If mom allows screen time before homework, there will be more pushback when dad doesn’t. It can be tempting to allow a later bedtime, especially if your child is only with you a few nights a week.
“They can catch up on sleep when they are with their other parent.” “They don’t get much screen time with my ex, so it won’t hurt to allow it with me.” That kind of thinking is tempting, but it isn’t what’s best for your child and their schoolwork.
These issues affect being in the proper frame of mind for school and completing homework. If you and your ex can get on the same page, you present a united front to your child. You also create a structure that prioritizes your child’s schooling success. Try to establish some basic ground rules that will apply in both households.
Young children thrive on routine. Keeping the academic routine as similar as possible across homes will significantly benefit them. Snack, playtime, homework, dinner at mom’s. Snack, playtime, homework, dinner at dad’s.
Another area where a shared plan is helpful is surrounding school activities. Coordinate your calendars so that at least one of you is present at school events whenever possible. Ensure you both understand who picks up and drops off your kids at school and their various other activities.
Think of the co-parent as a business partner. When it’s time for their state history diorama project, discuss it together, especially if your child needs to work on it while spending time at both households. When you meet to exchange custody, inform the other parent of the project’s status, what still needs to be done, and what additional supplies are required. If you have a relationship with your ex where you can treat supporting schoolwork like a shared business interest, your child benefits.
Think and Talk About the Future
For older children, the conversations shift from science projects and bedtimes to preparing for their future. Do you both agree that your child should plan to attend college? Try to decide on a plan for things like college expenses. Some of that may have been worked out with your divorce attorney and included in your custody agreement, but there will be additional details to discuss. What will you set as a budget cap for tuition? Will you support out-of-state choices? If you can, present a united front on the types of colleges you’d like your child to attend and what type of support each of you will provide.
Include both parents in conversations about extracurricular activities that will boost a college admissions package. Consider paid test-prep programs and whether you will each support those financially and with your time.
It can be easy to allow your worries about the divorce transition to let you slide into being overly permissive with your child. “He’s been through so much. A few nights of missed homework won’t really hurt.”
Children going through the upheaval of divorce need a strong foundation of consistency and routine. Letting them stay up late or filling out a few of their homework worksheets so they don’t have to do it can feel like a gift. It isn’t. It’s just one more change in their life. You create one more area where they don’t know what to expect or what is expected of them.
Don’t let your worries for your child translate into inconsistent parenting or overly permissive choices. Discipline and routine are more important now than ever. Your child’s mental well-being and their academic success depend upon it.
Continue to be Present
One of the most critical tips is to be as present as possible. Children thrive when they have the support of their parents. When feasible, show up for your child at parent-teacher conferences, science fairs, spelling bees, and playground jog-a-thons. Even if it means seeing your ex, you should prioritize your child’s school activities. If this creates conflict, consult your child custody lawyer, but hopefully both parents can remain civil and present a united, supportive front.
Not only does that help them feel supported and show them that you think school is important, but it also helps reassure them that life as a child of divorce will be okay. Seeing mom and dad sitting in the audience of the third-grade holiday performance–even if they aren’t sitting next to each other–supports your child and their future academic success.
Enlist Help at School
Ensure your child’s teacher knows about the divorce and any relevant or concerning details. They can watch for signs that your child is struggling more than expected. The school may also have counselors available to help if your child needs to speak with someone about what’s on their mind. These outside sources can be a safe outlet for your child. They also offer another set of eyes to look for signs that your child may need extra assistance processing the changes in their life.
There’s no reason your divorce needs to be a stumbling block for your child’s academic achievements. With some thoughtful choices on your part and attempts to work together with their other parent, you shouldn’t have to worry about your divorce affecting their school success. These tips can help ensure your child thrives academically, even after your divorce.