Dr. Amy Stark
Child Psychologist, Author & Speaker
Teaching Families How to Live Divorced
and Self-Esteem for Girls and Boys
Food For Thought
Back-to-School Help for Divorced Parents
Back to School during COVID-19 is presenting every family with challenges. Things seem to change daily, with coronavirus numbers rising, and kids don't know what they can count on. Adding the challenges of being a family of divorce sometimes magnifies these challenges. It’s hard for parents to plan when things change daily, both in terms of what school or childcare can be like and with what job expectations may change as well.
In my practice, I am already encouraging parents to plan what they can and prepare kids to get in the mindset that more online school is in store for them. Here are some things to think about that might help:
1. Communication between parents is key. Try to discuss how you are going to handle changes as they come, together, for your child/children's benefit. It does not help your child feel stable during all this turmoil if your family system is also in turmoil. Try to look at what you can each contribute to your child's education.
2. Remember you are not in this alone. You are not the only family struggling with how you are going to be teacher, parent and childcare during the time when you are also working from home. Then, figure out who can help you with childcare on the days you have to go into work, or how you can tag team getting it done. This is not the time to be petty about who gets what. This is more about how you can help each other out in a pinch, so your child gets supervision while one of you may have to return to work with no childcare.
3. Keep as many traditions as possible. The first day of school often involves picture taking at the school and excitement to meet the teacher. Continue those traditions, as best you can. Consider taking a drive over to the school for one photo – with social distancing, of course. This day is important, even if it starts online. Also, if kids start school with a new outfit or shoes, have them get dressed up just like they would for school.
4. Adopt school routines. Go outside and line up outside your home. Pledge allegiance or do whatever routine the school has before starting. Then have a place set up in your home where the association is school work and not fun at home. This puts them in the mindset for getting something done.
5. Keep the schedule as much like the classroom schedule as possible. Make sure you have recess, snack and lunch time. For PE, you can have an exercise time in the backyard to get everyone moving around.
6. Have some art or music projects for the kids to work on. Kids like to color or cut. There are some great ideas online for projects to keep the kids busy and augment the school day.
7. Keep reminding the kids that this year, our big lesson is to do things as a family and to learn to be flexible. COVID-19 probably has a few more curve balls it will be sending our way, and we all need to do our best, most days, to meet them. It is also ok to, once in a while, have a few minutes of complaining. Then move the conversation into the positive about how you are going to rise above the challenge and be successful.
Unlike how it sometimes feels, coronavirus is not forever. We will all get past this and when families work together, despite past differences, you have taught your children how to overcome any future challenge in the course of their lifetime.
One child recently told me she is going to keep a COVID notebook with pictures in it. Then, in the future, when her kids tell her they can't do something, she can point out that she got through COVID and she can do anything and so can they.
Good lesson for us all.
Dr. Stark's Web site is not intended to take the place of a court-ordered advice or the advice of another professional. Although you may use the input found here to your best advantage, we recommend that you do so in conjunction with the work that you are doing with your individual therapist. Remember: this Web site is not therapy; it's knowledge and support.
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