HomeHealth & BehaviorEmotional Well-Being

Bright Ideas for Divorced Parents

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By GreatSchools Staff

Tips for Communicating With the Other Parent

Keep anger out of it.

"When my parents divorced way back in the 'dark ages,'" writes a divorced mom, "I was keenly aware of the pain and anguish that accompanied this situation from the perspective of a child - so when I married, I 'married for life.' And of course, like all absolute things, they are not absolute - except death and taxes, as the old saying goes. I ended a 12-year-marriage and had a 3-year-old daughter to consider!

"The flood of memories and emotions with all the hurt and anguish came fully back to the forefront of my mind, and it was at that time that my ex and I agreed that there was no reason to have any animosity between us when it came to our little girl. This helped in setting schedules, maintaining routines and even in our dealing with one another! We made her the first priority and have kept that sacred and foremost in our situation."

"One thing that we have had to learn over the years," writes a Louisiana mom, "is that no matter what kind of anger or issues we are dealing with as parents, we have to keep that out of our children's lives and get along well enough to focus on our children's happiness, education and discipline."

"We had some real battles on several issues, so we fought about it on the phone or when the kids weren't around. When the kids were in our presence, we would often act so fake and kind to each other that it ended many arguments with laughter. The key is not how you set aside your differences, but THAT you set aside your differences."

Keep your focus on the child.

A parent of four children, ages 3, 7, 9 and 16, writes: "Unfortunately, a lot of divorced parents miss out on a lot of opportunities because of their emotions. You must stay focused on what's best for your child. Keep your child involved in after-school activities such as dance, plays, basketball or football. Go to your child's PTA. Stay involved in all of their school activities.

"What worked best for me and my children was to establish a routine. When it comes to parent involvement, my ex and I rotate who will be there. Sometimes there is a conflict of interest, so if we both end up there at the same time, such as a school concert or a play, since we agree on the importance of parent involvement, we sit on opposite sides. When school pictures are taken, one person gets the pictures and the other parent orders reprints.

"Last but not least, please do not force your emotions about the other parent on your child. Whatever happened in the breakdown of your marriage has nothing to do with your child's relationship with the other parent. Allow your child to form his own opinion of what he feels about the other parent, not yours. What helps me is keeping in mind that it's business, not personal. It's business to make sure that child support or other financial resources are in place to ensure my children receive the proper care that they need."

A dad suggests that it might be necessary to get certain things in writing:

"When you are drawing up the divorce papers," he advises, "the non-custodial parent should request that the custodial parent keep the non-custodial parent advised of their children's progress in school, for example, by sending copies of report cards, kudos, etc. My son is graduating next month and I had to email his principal to find out the date of the graduation. My son has never been one to care about dates - of Christmas break, spring break, now even his own graduation date - and his mother was never forthcoming. As I said, he is graduating and I have not seen one single report card. You're all probably thinking I am a derelict father, which is the farthest thing from the truth. I have never been behind on support and though my military career made visiting difficult, I went to see him as often as possible and usually at great expense. So, get it in writing folks!"

Recognize that parents can have different attitudes towards education.

A father of two, ages 13 and 11, writes: "I have had to be very active in their schools even before my divorce, since their mom has a different view on school than I do. I attend all conferences, and when I can't, I do them by phone. I have volunteered for special in-class events to make sure that I have met the other parents, and we attend the class leisure activities, such as book fairs and barbecues.

"My ex, unfortunately, does not do any of these things. I had a teacher call me one year and let me know that she had actually gone to a parent-teacher conference and let him know that 'homework was not a priority in her home' and walked out on him.

"But I can say that my efforts have paid off since they are both still maintaining their grades at right around a 3.0 each, and that they realize just how important it is that they continue on with a post-secondary education."

Comments from readers

"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! "
"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!"
"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 here we are."
"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 "
"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."
"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."