In any other year, back to school means new clothes, new backpack and the excitement of seeing friends and teachers. This year, due to the pandemic, many children will be learning remotely or with a hybrid schedule. This presents a different set of issues for divorcing parents.
Here are some tips for navigating cyber or hybrid learning:
Celebrate the first day of school
Even is school is not in person, the first day of school is still a big deal! If you have always taken a picture on the stoop with a sign, continue the tradition. If both parents usually go to the bus stop, consider inviting the other parent to take pictures too. If that’s not an option, send them the photos. The more you can reduce stress for the children, the happier they will be. Happy kids learn better. Children sense when their parents are getting along. They definitely know when their parents are not getting along.
Set up a dedicated workspace
Find a place in your home free of distraction. Use a divider to separate children and noise canceling headphones. If your child has a tablet, consider whether they could use a monitor, keyboard, stylus and/or mouse to assist them. Communicate with your coparent with what is working and not working at your home so you can come up with the best workspace plan. You can even share the cost of some of the extra items and exchange them between homes.
Set a schedule
Time management is an important skill. To the extent your children have independent time, set a schedule for school work, lunch, “recess” and downtime so that they (and you) have some structure to their day. Again, coordinate with your coparent to give your children consistency between homes.
Communicate about assignments
If the parents are not communicating, assignments can fall through the cracks. An electronic calendar or written calendar can be helpful. Copy the other parent on emails with the teacher so that everyone is in the loop.
For Hybrid schedules, consider changing the custody schedule on a temporary basis
If you have the 2-2-5-5 schedule, for example, and you have every Monday and Tuesday, you may have all of the in school days. Or, you may have none of the in school days. Depending on your work schedule and availability and that of the other parent, it may make sense to switch days so that you have Wednesdays and Thursdays instead. Another possibility is to switch to the 2-2-3 schedule so the parent with Mondays and Tuesdays rotates each week. Read my article about custody schedules to learn more.
If you are sensing a theme in this article, you are correct. We are in unprecedented and uncertain times. While children are resilient, the parents set the tone. The better you can communicate with your coparent, the better off your children will be.