New family routines during a divorce aren’t always easy to figure out. These are the days when we return to routines. Parents and kids rise early for the school bus. After the backpacks are packed and the lunches made, little ones are sent off with their homework. There’s a comfort with this familiarity.
Many of us grew up with some semblance of a public or private education. The friends, sports, and school lunches feel normal. The homework, first crushes, and parental involvement part of growing up. But for those of us experiencing loss—any loss, really, but in this case, loss of a marriage—going back to school routines during a divorce can be really difficult.
Schools involve children. Once a family routine changes, it can be weird for everyone.
So many routines during a divorce are forced to change! Children move from parent to parent, home to home many times a month. When I was growing up, for better or for worse, children primarily lived with their mothers. Clearly staying in one home and seeing a father on the weekend or one day a week isn’t suited for everyone. Many single dads fight for more time with their kids. Today, courts reflect this changing attitude granting single dads more custody of their children. There are benefits for both the parent and the child with such an arrangement. So, as school goes back into session, make things as simple as possible for yourselves.
1. Organize each home.
- Write to teachers and ask for textbooks for both homes.
- Get school supplies for both homes so your child always has what they need.
- Purchase duplicate undergarments and PJs.
- Set up toiletries and have all the pieces of the school uniform.
- With duplicates, there will be less stress in the morning.
- Make sure there’s enough clothing in each home at all times even if that means communicating with the kids’ other parent.
- Show them where they wait for a bus in each neighborhood.
- Have a small bag packed at all times for the things the child takes back and forth. This helps them know where things belong.
2. Have a calendar:
- Ourfamilywizard.com makes organizing easier and co-parenting less antagonistic. There are many apps to help with co-parenting. But when the calendar is set and communication is clear between school, parents, MDs, and tutors, life is simpler for all.
- Create a calendar for little ones so they know when they’ll be in their other parent’s home. Help them learn to tell time so that an hour feels like an hour. Then teach them how to mark off the schedule—it gives them a sense of control.
- Set up a time for children to call and say “good night” each evening, provided it’s good for the child.
- Know that even though you may be uncomfortable with the routine, all kids—even little ones—learn the rhythm and get used to going from home to home.
3. Find a way to make your night(s) off fun:
- You have a built-in babysitter, so take a night off!
- Sleep in! Enjoy the late mornings in which you don’t have to pack sandwiches.
- Go out—you deserve time to be with other adults and to experiment with dating and have fun.
Those first few weeks (months?) of co-parenting were really hard for me. I hated it when my kids went to their father’s home as part of the new routine. Even now, I don’t always get to see them off on the first day of school, which is weird. But my children are older now and I look forward to my nights off. But, saying that doesn’t always mean I enjoy spending a holiday without them.
Fortunately, my kids are safe and that is a huge relief. As a child of divorced parents, I wanted to see my dad on his days. So I get that my kids want to see their father too. Because they do, and because he’s safe, my solo hours are easier to manage.
Children will accept their routines during a divorce.
Especially if you let them. Take some comfort in knowing that it’s what they will learn and experience. Over time, they will describe their living arrangement as normal and familiar over time. Let the routines during a divorce be easy for yourself. and They will give you time to be quiet and recharge again.