NEW SCHOOL YEAR BRINGS CHALLENGES FOR PARENTSNan Cohen Says Parents have Unique Back-to-School Challenges when Separated or Divorced
A new school year is full of surprises, but expecting the unexpected will assist parents dealing with separation and divorce, says divorce reality expert Nan Cohen, host of “Dealing with Divorce” on Pittsburgh’s KQV-AM.
The unique challenges of students entering a new school or classroom this time of year can be stressful, says Cohen. But “back-to-school” coupled with parents who now operate from two households or juggling their own emotions require families to apply some specific steps for success.
“Children are especially vulnerable when a separation or divorce is new,” observes Cohen, who for more than a decade has been tackling divorce-related topics as host for “Dealing with Divorce" and now online at www.divorcerealityexpert.com. Focusing on the personal and wellness concerns around divorce, Cohen is passionate about the effects of divorce on children, who may be overlooked in the midst of parental disagreements and conflicts--long after the papers have been signed.
“Returning or even starting school for the first time is a big step for children,” says Cohen. “When parents are juggling emotions, custody, and multiple schedules, everyday routines can be disrupted. It’s important that parents who may not be living together work together on behalf their children. The academic success of the students can be affected by what’s happening—or not happening—at home.”
Parents need to focus on functioning as a family, especially when the parents are apart, Cohen stresses. “Keep emotions and conflicts out daily life and set goals with your child for successful outcomes associated with their children’s education and extra-curricular activities,”
“Put the children and their time in the spotlight first,” Cohen advises.” This is not the time to argue about who attends a particular concert or sports event. Find ways that both parents and other family members can be supportive during those moments when your kids shine.”
Custody arrangements may affect many relatives, especially grandparents, Cohen observes. School activities, she says, are a great opportunity to bring other family members along in supporting children in their achievements.
Cohen suggests five simple ways for those dealing with separation and divorce to set goals for the school year:
- Support your child in feeling good about what they do. Discuss what’s ahead this year and determine what roles each parent can play individually and together. “When you tackle that calendar of carpooling, parent-teacher meetings, arts programs, and sports,” Cohen suggests, “keep the happiness of your child foremost. These are not chores for parents; these are milestones to share with your children.”
- Divide and Conquer: Determine what matters most to your children and how both Mom and Dad.(along with Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles) can take part in events and celebrations throughout the year. Cohen maintains that couples in divorce need to recognize the support grandparents can provide. “But you need to decide what they can do and can’t do for you and your children.”
- Keep it simple. A favorite reminder from Nan, who insists realistic planning and goals keep school and all the other layers of life more manageable. “You can be very positive by being realistic in setting schedules, timelines, and vacation plans. Sometimes this planning must be less to do about custody agreements and more about what your child needs.”
- Set Homework Rules. Homework can look very different at Mom’s house or Dad’s home. Cohen suggests that parents discuss guidelines for important issues like homework, curfews, and driving. “Kids of all ages benefit from structure,” she says. “Having similar rules at each home—if parents live apart—is very helpful to the children. It’s best not to allow children to play one parent off the other with ‘Mom said I could!’ moments.”
- Get help when you need it. Your time is precious so make the most of it with your child. Ask for help with child care, shopping, yard and house work—whatever it takes to have more time with your school-aged child. “Don’t be afraid to barter or to give up something so that you can pay for a few hours of assistance,” says Cohen.
“It’s not easy, but focusing on your child will always keep things in perspective,” Cohen notes. “Sure, divorce is all about the parents, but while parents may not be together, they always remain parents.”
As kids head back to school, some parents are dealing with lawyers, signing papers, and coping with emotions around divorce.
“Do take care of yourself so that you can be there for the kids,” Cohen advises. Always, Cohen notes that those who are experiencing especially turbulent emotions and difficulties should consult a counselor or their spiritual leader.
“Some days are rough,” she adds, speaking from experience,” But every day with your child is a blessing.”
Nan Cohen is recognized as the go-to person on separation and divorce. On the air with “Dealing with Divorce” since 2004, Nan brings her practical, reality-based perspective to audiences and individuals seeking direction on navigating through divorce. Now coaching one-on-one, Nan’s expertise is based on her own experience and long-running radio show. After her marriage took a surprising turn and she found herself confronted with all the emotions and logistics of divorce, Nan began to share what she had learned and discovered a niche in which she could help others work through a transition to a new beginning.
Nan Cohen is online at www.divorcerealityexpert.com and on Facebook at Nan Cohen Total Talk.