As a single mama, the navigation of the school system can be tricky, but, I do understand that Cole has a daddy, and no matter our relationship, he deserves to know what is going on with Cole at school too. Since Cole is still little, this communication can be pretty simple, and honestly, if I know what is going on, I also tell him, since it is “fair” to be on the same page. It is in Cole’s best interest to have everyone be on the same page. I am guilty of over-communicating at times (if you are someone who I text, you know this, my apologies).
Since I work with high school kids and families, I understand that as a child gets older, and has more activities and more teachers, this relationship only gets more and more complicated (as does life for everyone!). Here are some pointers for schools and for divorced parents, from a single mama and a high school counselor (I cannot imagine how complicated my life will be when Cole is in high school and I am his counselor, pray for him, ha).
- Does your child’s teacher know your custody arrangement? Does the school administrative assistant? You really cannot assume that the school knows what your custody and visitation arrangement is. It is in your and your child’s best interest to communicate with both your school office and your children’s teachers. We have a set schedule for drop off and pick up, so that Cole has the comfort of structure (I need structure as an adult, and your mini me needs it too). The school knows that they can communicate with either Cole’s dad or me, but also that if they communicate with me, I will share with him (because I am a grown person, and they expect me to behave like one, take note).On the junior high and high school level (and also elementary school), your child will have multiple teachers. So GO TO OPEN HOUSE AND PT CONFERENCES. Do it. Just go. Those hard-working people are many things, often times parents themselves, and pretty much parenting every kid they teach, but they are NOT all-knowing. They do not have time to walk up to the office and ask who they should be emailing. They will more than likely love to have knowledge of your situation, because it will help make their lives easier, and we like to make teachers’ lives easier. From the parent standpoint, while it is great if parents communicate with each other, sometimes they simply do not. I would suggest having both email addresses or phone numbers on hand to request a meeting or communicate with home. Maybe have a Remind 101 for all parents, so that everyone has the ability to sign up to get the same messages. Cole’s teachers have always done an excellent job of making information accessible to both of us, and having two copies of everything. While it may not be the easiest thing for teachers to do, it is easier to push “2” on the copier than to maybe convey the message to parents that they are not a “normal family”.
- Get involved with your child’s school. Being a single parent sometimes means doing it all by yourself, but make time to go to school events, like PTO meetings, special lunchtime with your little one, or classroom parties. I work with a fabulous group of single mamas, and I tell them that when they don’t know where to turn and they feel overwhelmed, they need to turn to Jesus, and put all of their focus on being the best mama they can be. You cannot lose when you focus all of your energy on your child, not another relationship other than your child. Schools will work with who works with them, remember that. If they know you, and know you are working with them and not against them, you will all be on the same page. From the school point of view, providing parent events where all parents can be involved, with morning and evening activities, ensures the highest level of success for your students. Kids with parents who are involved in school do so much better academically and socially in the long run.
- Have a written homework planner and guide Most schools have online gradebooks now, and that is the easiest and best way for parents to stay on track of their child’s progress. Parents have the same log in, which should be easily accessible to parents via the teacher. An online version of assignments for younger grades will benefit everyone, not just divorced parents. Families are so busy now, and going in different directions, so having one place for everything would help all parties involved.
- Get over it Personally I understand the pain of divorce. I get it. It hurts. But as time passes, parents have to make the effort to put your child first, and engage the other parent in a business type relationship. Remove the emotion, and NEVER argue about situations in front of your child. Chances are, your child is painfully aware of your situation, and that mommy and daddy do not live together, now they crave the stability of a happy, functioning home (or two, in our case). So it is your job as the grown person to give that to them. As a counselor, when I know the family is a divorced parent situation, it is simple for me to email both parents with the same information, or make two phone calls. I would prefer if parents can contact one another, but I understand in the early stages of divorce that is not a possibility.
- If you feel stuck and overwhelmed turn to some counsel with a friend or professional (or single mama group at your church, hint hint). Someone has been in the chapter you are living. All of this advice is null and void if you are leaving an abusive situation, or the child has a protective order against the other parent, on one last note. If a crime against the child has been committed, you have to HAVE TO inform the school immediately, for so many reasons. In a single parent situation, I have found that the school can be one of our biggest cheerleaders. More communication is always a good thing!!