Children of divorced parents who go back and forth between two households experience a sense of loss and anxiety each time they transition between the homes. The biological and stepparents may experience similar feelings. As the summer winds down and you and your family are getting ready for the new school year these feelings may intensify, as you transition from the unstructured recreation of summer back into the disciplined routine that the coming school year will demand of you and your children. Stepfamilies may find this adjustment especially challenging because of differing rules and expectations between the households.
The following tips will help you and your children prepare for transitioning between homes and to the new school year.
- Have a co-parenting meeting with your former spouse. Together, write down a parenting plan that will include rules, goals, and expectations for your children. It will help your children adjust to transitions between households.
- Validate to your children the rules of their other home as much as you can. Your acknowledgment and support of their other household will help your children in their adjustment to both homes.
- Acknowledge your children’s discomfort over having to switch homes all the time. Allow for a couple of hours of adjustment when they come to your home.
- Develop academic and behavioral goals with your children for the new school year. Write down your rules and expectations of them. Behavioral charts are very effective with younger children (3-11). Consider behavioral contracts with older children, which spell out rewards and consequences.
- Include the children in creating a personal learning space at home. Designate areas and structured times for study, where they are free from electronic distractions like cell phones and televisions.
- Stay in touch with your children’s schools. Inform teachers of any changes in your family structure, such as remarriage. Also, make sure you are on the school mailing list, especially if you are not the custodial parent, as schools often leave them out of the loop unless explicitly requested otherwise.