So, your kids are gearing up to go back to school like always—but this time, you and your spouse are no longer together. That potentially means two new morning routines for your kids, two new commutes, and two different after-school routines. It’s always important to have a routine for your kids’ sake, but when it comes to their emotional health and academic success, keeping a smooth routine between you and your ex is absolutely critical.
At Gill Law Group, PC, we understand the need for your family to establish a strong routine. Below, our Irvine divorce lawyers have gathered some practical advice to get your kids on track as soon as possible.
#1: Communicate Early & Often with Your Ex
If you and your ex share custody throughout the week or on alternating weeks, you’ll need to communicate with them as often as possible in order to keep track of your child’s education. Parent-teacher conferences, after-school programs, tutoring appointments, rehearsals, or practices are just a few of the things you’ll need to stay on the same page on for your child’s sake.
Here are the benefits of keeping in communication with each other:
- You won’t be pressuring your child to keep track for you
- You won’t accidentally let any important issues fall through the cracks
- Your child gets seamless and consistent treatment between two homes
- Your child gets to focus on school instead of serving as a go-between
At least once a week (we recommend Sundays), go over your child’s weekly schedule with each other. Even if a particular appointment doesn’t involve you, knowing about it means you’ll stay involved no matter what. It also helps you stay abreast of any issues your child might be facing at school.
#2: Establish a Morning or Arrival Ritual
It’s critical to establish a ritual to help your child normalize your half of the back-to-school routine. Do something that both of you can realistically do as soon as they arrive at your home or when they’re getting ready in the morning at your place. Like jogging? Go for a quick run in the morning with your child. Eat breakfast with them, or put on a certain album in the morning during the “getting ready” hour.
Any type of “anchor point” helps build an expectation in your child’s mind—and meeting that expectation builds stability and normalcy. Quick tip: make it something easy to notice or that’s already a part of your morning routine. For example, don’t attempt to start jogging just to establish it as a ritual.
#3: Make Them Sleep in Their Own Bed (or Establish a Bedtime Routine)
This is definitely a tip for people with younger children, but it’s critical that you let your child know that their new routine is normal and not “wrong.” It’s normal for young children to want to sleep next to you in the early stages of the divorce—it offers a short-term solution for their anxiety and insecurity. However, allowing it to continue past the first week allows them to continue thinking that your separation is an abnormal or anxiety-inducing event.
Putting them in their own bed, while initially difficult, communicates that everything is still normal. Create a bedtime routine and stick to it every night. This creates a sense of stability, and it makes the ability to function in other areas easier. Ask them how you can help make their room more like “home,” like with posters or lights.
For older children, establishing a nighttime routine creates the same sort of normalcy. Watch a show together or pick a show you both like that you’ll agree to only watch together. Again, you’re creating an expectation, but it only works if you stick to the routine. All of these things can help your child establish a sleeping routine at your place that makes other routines (like getting ready for school) smoother.
#4: Be Realistic—Don’t Overcommit
The key to getting your child into a smooth back-to-school routine after a divorce is to be consistent with your commitments. Too many parents overcommit to their kids after a divorce out of insecurity or fear of losing their love. This is a mistake—you’re only increasing the chances of not following through on your commitments, creating an even worse sense of instability.
The best practice for setting up your child’s back-to-school routine is being realistic. Adjust your life to make room for them, but don’t make promises you can’t keep week in and week out. Assume that you’ll be just as busy in the future as you are now, and on that foundation, commit without emotional decision-making.
When you make realistic commitments, your child receives the stability and consistency they need to do well in school—and if you have extra time, you’ll have the opportunity to offer more of yourself as a bonus. And who doesn’t love a surprise like that?
Making sure your child has a smooth transition back to school means making sure your life is consistent and organized. Open the lines of communication with your ex—it’s important to remember that bad spouses could still be great parents. Establish simple morning and evening routines with your child—it builds normalcy, stability, and easy-to-meet expectations. Finally, be realistic about your time—it’s better to commit to a little and deliver more than expected than to destabilize your child’s routine.