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For recently divorced parents, communication is key as kids head back to school

As summer winds down, school-age children throughout Pennsylvania are preparing to head back to school. For parents and children alike, this time of year can be stressful as the whole family must adjust to new daily routines and responsibilities. In cases where a child's parents recently separated or divorced, heading back to school this fall may be a particularly challenging time for everyone.

To help a child not only transition back to school, but also adjust to all of the changes related to a divorce or separation, parents must do their best to foster a healthy co-parenting relationship. Communication is a key component of any effective co-parenting relationship and parents would be wise to discuss and take the following steps as their child prepares for another school year.

  • Keep your child's school and teacher(s) informed - While talking about your separation or divorce may initially feel awkward and uncomfortable, it's important to keep your child's school and teacher(s) informed about any and all changes that may impact his or her ability to learn, behavior and emotional development.
  • Decide who will serve as the primary school contact - Your child's school will need a primary contact who is responsible for handling administration tasks and details.
  • Update your contact information - Your child's school needs a way to communicate with and contact you if your child is injured, sick or in trouble. Both parents, therefore, should ensure that a child's school and teacher have their updated phone numbers and addresses.
  • Speak up - No news doesn't always equate to good news. Don't be shy about checking in with your child's school and/or teacher and asking how he or she is doing. Regular check-ins show that you are interested, engaged and that you want and expect to be kept in the loop about your child's academics and behavior.
  • Ask for accommodations - If you are unable to attend a school conference at the time(s) provided by your child's teacher or want to schedule a conference separate from your ex, request or suggest an alternate time.

For any parent, raising a child and trying to provide for his or her physical, mental, social and emotional development and wellbeing is challenging. For parents who are recently separated or divorced, these challenges are often magnified. Opening the lines of communication and engaging in open and honest dialog with your ex and your child's school and teacher can make this time of great transition and change easier and better for both you and your child.

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