How “Back to School” may look after Separation.
"Back to school" can bring many mixed emotions for parents, especially those who have recently separated, but be mindful your child is also having the same feelings.
Some children will wish the school holidays never end as they don’t want to go back to school because your separation is the last thing they want to talk about. They are wondering what they are going to tell their friends? Their teachers?
Some children sadly are feeling like the divorce is all their fault because they haven’t been told it wasn’t. So, they go to school carrying that burden of guilt and heavy sadness. The different emotions they could be feeling are: sad, scared, confused, fearful, angry, or worried.
Wow… even though it was so many years ago I can remember after my own parents separated that awkward feeling when they were in the same room together.
Oh boy! They didn’t have to say anything but I could have cut the air with a knife. It’s a weird to think that two people who were once married now can’t even be present in the same room together. Crazy!
I knew my Mum was always willing to be at school events with my Dad present, but it wasn’t long until he made it quite clear that if my mother was going to be around at any school event, he wouldn’t be.
He wouldn’t even attend parent-teacher night because she came. Ridiculous right?
Mind you I was only 9 when my parents separated, but I believed this was a selfish immaturity on my father’s behalf. I would ask myself why he was like this, and why wasn’t my needs put before his own?
I realised years later it came down to unresolved bitterness that he held towards my mother because she left the marriage. Sadly, my situation is an example of selfish needs put before children.
Many parents of course have mixed emotions after separation, but when it involves their children and school it can become a battlefield of which parent will dominate and have the louder say. To me, this is totally the wrong mindset to have and this will only cause you and your ex more friction, and your child more heartache.
For some of you this year your child is just starting Kindergarten, but for many of you, it’s another school year ahead.
Many have thoughts or questions like;
1.Which one of us will take them on their first day of school?
- What do I say if their other parent doesn’t show up to see them and they are thinking they will?
- I’m uncomfortable being around my ex so how do I do this?
- What if we both want to drive our child but can’t agree?
- What if my ex starts to talk to me and pushes towards a discussion that might become heated?
- Do I tell the teacher we are separated?
It is common to have these emotions and questions floating around in your head, but it is also important to recognise that your child will also be feeling many mixed emotions as well.
Don’t think that because they are children, they are not concerned about how this day may pan out. They are. Children are smarter than you think.
If you have been parents that are up and down and arguing quite a bit, they are also wondering how you will both be when together and in the same environment.
Will they talk to each other? Will they have an argument? Their little minds wander.
If they are older, they are just hoping you don’t embarrass them.
So know that many parents can feel anxious when their child is starting their first year at school or any year for that matter, but now being separated just escalates that feeling a bit more.
It could even be a new school that your child is starting at and you are wondering if they will make new friends. Guess what! So, are they?
My place as an advocate and a child who has lived through this is to always give you an understanding of their perspective.
I was that child at 9 and for the next 17 years I struggled with their separation, but I must say that in my school years these were some of my toughest times.
Your child may have always had you both around at every event they were involved in, and now your separated this may not be the case so this could be emotionally upsetting for them.
Remember change isn’t easy for them either.
The important perspective you both need to have as parents when separated is your “Childs Perspective”
Here are some things I find that are important for you to remember;
- Alert the teacher of your separation. You don’t have to go into any lengthy story but enough so they are aware to look out for any behavioural issues with your child. Don’t get on the bandwagon about your ex to the teacher to make a bad impression of them. This is hurtful to your child and their other parent. Having a healthy relationship with your child’s teacher will help your child well. The teacher will have more understanding and give them emotional support when needed because they are now aware.
- What, do they say to their peers? You may need to help your child with this. Give them some guidance on how to answer a question like.
Why did they divorce?
Where do you live now, or will you be moving house and school?
Do you want to live with your Mum or Dad?
Sadly, kids will just ask so you need to be mindful that your child may need some help to know how to answer them.
You need to let your children know though that is ok to feel sad on days, or express how they feel but try to direct them towards talking to their teacher especially if they are young. If they are older, they may be happy to talk with their school counsellor or a close friend. Sadly, many children in school are dealing with the same family issue.
A couple of examples your children could say:
- Yes, they have separated, but I don’t want to talk about it.
- My parents are still there for me and I might talk about it when I feel I can.
- Yes, it’s hard but I know they still love me and will be there for me.
- Some kids will need to be reassured of certain things. They may feel like they won’t stay at that school, they may move house. So many things will be on their mind. Sometimes they may not even think of certain things but if a friend asks it may prompt them to them worry about their own security and future.
So, if you know they will be still living where they are now or maybe moving you must (if possible) give them advance notice on this. If you feel they may move schools, this is also very important to convey.
I highly advise if you can avoid moving school I would. Last-minute changes may provoke intense reactions from them especially if the divorce was a shock to them.
I can remember moving from my family home was emotional enough for me. It took me a few years to get over leaving my family home. So, staying at my school with my friends did give me some stability and familiarity.
So when you stay “Child-Focused” it only benefits you all.
Putting yourself in their shoes, and see things from their point of view.
Your own opinions of your ex on this day are irrelevant.
I’ve seen many parents over the years have selfish agendas when it comes to schooling and sadly their only drive is to control how they want it to be so it benefits themselves.
Your child will be looking for comfort on this day, and a parent who is there for them. That’s it!
Having both of their parents there (if possible) will bring them so much joy and comfort. So, I ask you, isn’t this what you want for your child as well?
If your relationship with your ex isn’t the best, your focus on the day just needs to be on your child.
Being civil to each other will help your child enter their classroom with less stress or anxiety.
Many children who are starting kindergarten or a new school are already hypersensitive.
– What if I don’t make any friends today?
– What if I don’t like my teacher?
They truly have enough on their young minds, so as their parents you need to be mindful and take that extra pressure off them.
I have said for years now it all comes down to maturity. If your ex is going to push your buttons you will have to choose to be the bigger parent and not react.
Every decision you make, word you say, or action you take, is a CHOICE.
The playground is not the place for any parental issues to be played out, so be mindful of this.
If you find having someone else present with you like your child’s grandparent, for example, do this to just to make it feel less uncomfortable.
You may both agree that one will drop off and one pick up on their first day. That’s great If you can come to a mutual agreement.
If you have an amicable relationship and custody orders in a place where you have fortnightly care, I would highly advise that days like these are open for you both to always attend together. Remember, it is about what your child would desire, not you.
Overall I feel it is important that your child’s lasting memory of this day is a happy and healthy one.
The last thing they need to remember is the day Mum & Dad blew up at school.
Talk to your child. Ask them what they would like. Be open-minded and most importantly stay Child Focused