Whether you are a separated or divorced parent, your children are going to spend time in your home during timesharing/visitation. Involved parents want to remain involved in their children’s school and schoolwork.
The following are five things to keep in mind in staying involved with your child and promoting your child’s excellence at school:
- Create documentation: If your divorce or custody agreement is being worked out, ask your attorney to include a clause that specifically gives both parents access to school records and information. Most states have a statutory provision which permit access to school records to both parents regarding public schools. However, state statutes may not apply to private schools. Consequently, having this clause inserted will answer any question public or private schools may have as to which parent should receive information;
- Notify the school: Once you and the other parent have physically separated, let the school know. Make sure the school has both parents’ names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses. Make sure that you ask the school to send notices, report cards and other information to both addresses. However, remember that most school information is not sent by email or mail. Instead, it is sent home with your child or children. For example, if your child is at your home Monday through Thursday and with the other parent Friday after school, a notice sent home on Friday about things the child needs to bring the following Tuesday is not going to come directly to you.
- Share information: To ensure that both parents receive notices and other information sent home from school with your child, it’s a great idea to develop a plan with the other parent that will allow you to share all information that comes home with the child. Whoever is with the child after school will read all the papers, scan and email a copy to the other parent, or pass along a photocopy, or send the original after reviewing it. This alternative will ensure that both of you have all the necessary information for your child. Making this commitment and following through requires you to make a commitment to keeping the other parent informed. However, it is a two-way street. Also remember if you play games with school information, you’re not punishing the other parent, you’re punishing your child or children.
- Homework help: Homework can create issues for many families, whether they’re separated or still living together. Consider making a rule that whichever parent is with the child that day is responsible for making sure that assignments that come home on that day are completed. Some non custodial/non primary timesharing parents feel that children should not have to do homework when they are with them. However, what children really need is two parents who are involved with the child’s life and committed to their child’s success. Helping your child with homework is another way to show you care and want to be a part of the child’s life. It may not be fun at times, but it’s important for parents and children to share the fun times as well as the everyday times.
- Conferencing with school teachers: When you schedule parent-teacher conferences, you may wish to go together or you may wish to schedule separate times. You should do whatever is comfortable for you. However, sometimes you will need to conference with teachers together, particularly if there are important decisions that must be made regarding your child’s education.
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Communicating directly with the teacher is probably the most important thing you can do to stay involved in your child’s school life. Make sure the teacher knows that you are separated or divorced but stress to the teacher that both parents want to be involved and informed. Your child’s teacher wants your child to succeed academically. Your child’s teacher also knows that in order for your child to succeed academically, both parents need to be supportive and informed. So be supportive and stay informed.