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Bright Ideas for Divorced Parents

When we asked our readers how divorced parents can help their kids succeed in school, they responded with many thoughtful comments.

By GreatSchools Staff

Divorced parents support their children's education by communicating effectively with the school and the other parent, and by coordinating both households to run smoothly for homework, field trips, school involvement and parent/teacher conferences.

Build a Strong Relationship With the School

Make sure that the teacher is aware of the custody arrangement.

A Texas stepmother of a high school freshman writes: "The parents cannot assume a teacher knows or has read the application/registration form. Alternatively, teachers must communicate with both parents. The educator must be knowledgeable about the custody arrangements especially since so many are 50/50 now versus the "old-fashioned" every other weekend visit.

"The teacher should encourage both parents to attend open houses/parent-teacher conferences/special events, etc. All of this is to make things easier for the child and not expect the child to communicate between educator and parents or between two parents!

"Teachers should also make an effort to make two copies of all important documents, announcements, classroom directories, etc., to ensure that both parents receive a copy. The educator cannot assume that one parent is sharing that information with the other. Again, this ensures that both parents are involved and keeps the child out of the middle.

"Above all, educators, teachers and parents must be sensitive to the child and how they might feel 'different' from the other children from 'intact' families. This team must work closely to ensure a positive academic experience and a smooth transition from grade to grade."

A Louisiana mother of two girls, ages 5 and 6, writes: "Teachers cannot be expected to keep up with our visitation schedule, but they should be advised at the beginning of school. There is always the form you complete that asks you to tell the teacher something about your child. This is where I mention that she is from a divorced family, and I leave my name, email and all of my phone numbers for the teacher and ask that she advise me via phone or email of anything important that both parents should know about. This way she doesn't just send a note home that may only be read by one parent or may get lost on the way. When I get the call or email, I immediately call their father to advise him before I forget."

Make time to be involved at school.

A divorced parent of two writes: "Set aside some time for school activities. That could mean attending PTA meetings or scheduling a visit to the classroom to observe your child's participation and progress. Both parents need to attend parent/teacher conferences, even if on different days. It's easy to lose focus when feeling pain, but the children should be the focus. Although difficult, it can be done. Both of my children, now grown, attend University of California, Irvine. My daughter is completing her third year and my son his first year! With a 3.0 and above GPA. It worked for me, and it will work for anyone who is dedicated to doing the best for their children."

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

08/19/2008:
"I have a teenage stepdaugher (16), whose mother is a control freak and married to an even worse control freak. We don't get any notice for school events unless the daughter brings up something about a dance or something to that effect. We never know about PTA nights or conferences, etc. The only reason we receive any grades is because her school has made it possible for us to receive emails and alerts when she hasn't done her homework or if she's tardy, etc, and her father is on the school's mailing list for when report cards go out. Now, we're trying to fight for custody, and I already know it's going to get ugly. We would like to have her transferred to a school near us (for obvious reasons), but they just don't seem to stack up to the high school she's currently attending. Despite the fact that her current school is 'better,' her grades have suffered due to an unhappy home life with her mother and stepfather. If we were to keep her at the same school she's currently attending, it would be a 40-minute commute each way, and her mother would definitely NOT assist in the transportation. It would be 1/2 hour each way for me to pick her up at the end of the day at that school. We're also concerned that her mother would try to take her in the middle of the school day and we wouldn't see her again. If the child's grades are going to suffer because she's unhappy, is that less important than which school is better for her? This whole custody thing came up rather suddenly due to an emergency situation last weekend, and we have the school year starts next week. Help! "
05/14/2007:
"I really like the idea about having the teacher email info. We have been using 2 folders in her school bag 1 red folder labeled 'Mommy' folder and 1 blue 'Daddy' folder, but we still don't always recieve the information we need or have it on time, like my Step-daughter asked me to chaparone her field trip the next day! I couldn't go because of the short notice since the note was not passed along and the teacher forgot to put an additional note in her bag. We also have the problem of Homework not getting done or the due dates note being remembered by my Step-daughter. Having a calandar of Homework due dates sounds great!"
05/11/2007:
"I really enjoyed reading the creative ideas parents came up with to share their childrens' school experience. I am a single, divorced mother of three in post Katrina Mississippi. I have a college education and have to work all the time to support my family. I have almost no time to participate like I would like to because we would just about starve if I didn't work outrageous hours to provide. The state of Mississippi requires so little for child support that it is diffficult to survive. I make too much money to qualify for any help...so here we are."
05/11/2007:
"as a step parent i feel it is my obligation to help my step child with her school work. also does her dad just never has the time he has a late work schedule. but her mother never understood why her 'step mom' always helped her daughter with homework.she told her daughter to tell me not to help her.i was on that phone quick. i thought the important part of the issue is that someone helped the child. i have been in my step daughter's life since she was a year old.she is now eight. i have two of my own children which are pre schoolers but i am a stay at home mom & i treat all of my children the same.each home runs differently we feel a sense of stability is super important in a child's life.remarrying every two years or so NOT HEALTHY.finish raising these children then move on if things do not workout the second or third time around "
05/10/2007:
"This article was very informative and encouraging. I am recently divorced and I still have some anger and emotions because of her cheating and telling child he is an Uncle. etc. However, I do not express my anger in front of my son. However, she has recently stop giving him my phone messages. She has full custody. Her actions and various other reason makes it difficult to deal with her. However, I want to do what is best for my child."
05/10/2007:
"This article was very informative and encouraging. I am recently divorced and I still have some anger and emotions because of her cheating and telling child he is an Uncle. etc. However, I do not express my anger in front of my son. However, she has recently stop giving him my phone messages. She has full custody. Her actions and various other reason makes it difficult to deal with her. However, I want to do what is best for my child."
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