Heading Back To School: Practical Tips for Parents

It’s September and that means back to school for kids and parents.  Undoubtedly your child’s school probably has a back-to-school night where parents can meet the teacher face to face (or maybe on ZOOM depending on your district and their COVID-19 policies) so you, as a parent, can get the so-called lay of the land as to what your child will be learning this year, how they will be evaluated and what the expectations and goals are for the school year.  If you are a parent who is separated from your child’s other parent, sometimes issues arise surrounding your child’s education and schooling.  I have some tips or things to pause, think about and consider so you, too, can put your best foot forward for your child to insure their success in the coming school year.

  • Communication with the other parent:   Your child’s success in school hinges on your ability to communicate with the other parent regarding homework, school start and end times, special events at the school, etc.  Each parent should contact the teacher/school and make sure he or she has your contact information and email.  The school likely has a school calendar or other web based platform they use to communicate with parents.  Make sure you sign up to receive information directly from the school.  That way you can be sure not to miss any important information and get notice of special school events you may want to attend.
  • Homework:  The child’s age will be a factor in how involved a parent will need to be in checking to make sure the child’s homework is completed.  Each parent should communicate with the other parent regarding the completion of the homework and what, if anything, needs to be completed during a particular parent’s custodial time.  It may be helpful to send a short concise and to the point email before a custody transition to let the other parent know the status of homework or other school assignments. 
  • Parent-Teacher Conferences: You should make a point of attending your child’s parent teacher conferences to get feedback from your child’s teacher on their progress.  In a perfect world, it would be ideal for both parents to attend the conference together to demonstrate to your child that you have a common goal, notwithstanding your separation, you both want what is best for them with respect to their education. However, there may be situations where that is not possible.  If that is the case, your child’s teacher may be willing to meet with each parent separately.  However, you should not use the request or the separate conference to disparage the other parent.  Keep the topics about your child’s progress and what recommendations the teacher has for improvement, if any.  Also, note that in most cases, it is not appropriate to bring a stepparent or other third party to the conference. 
  • After-school activities: Parents often disagree on the extra-curricular or after school activities they want their children to participate in.  You should attempt to get on the same page with the other parent with respect to the activities, as in most cases parents share legal custody of their children, which means they must confer and agree on the activities, or a parent will have to seek court approval before he or she can enroll the child in a particular activity.  If a child has historically participated in an activity, a court will be more likely to permit the child to continue to participate.  If a parent is proposing a new activity, the parent should have considered the reasons why he or she would like the child to participate and be able to articulate those reasons to the court. 

Best for a great 2021-2022 school year!

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