Board Certified Counselor
It seems to come earlier and earlier each year, but there is no mistaking we’re in the back to school season.
The daunting task of re-adjusting to a new school year - or for some of you starting the school year as a single father for the first time - has prompted me to compile a list of divorce tips for men that will help you and your kids find success at the beginning of the new school year.
1. Set a schedule:
This is by far the most important as children need consistency in order to thrive. Consistency alleviates unwanted anxiety and worry for your children.
Create a schedule with your child that is specific and manageable. Your child should have just as much input as you do as the parent.
In recent times, there has been an extra emphasis on educational studies and extracurricular activities therefore leaving many students feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
To help balance out the daily demands try creating a time management chart that shows specifically what time they are expected to wake up in the morning to what time they need to arrive at school. Factor in daily homework time and block off time during the day for activities, eating times, and bedtime.
Also, make sure they schedule some fun time! I can’t tell you how many times I see students overloaded so be sure to not "over schedule." Remember this will be a schedule that works both for the parent and the child.
2. Create expectations:
I mentioned the word "expectations" already but I am going to explain why they are so important. For many divorced dads, more than likely the living arrangements for your children are going to be much different than years prior.
It is important that you re-establish goals and expectations with your child as a single father. What type of grades do you expect from your child? What are appropriate bed times for their age group? What is acceptable behavior and what is not?
Thorough research has taught educators that consequences are not necessarily effective so try setting up a reward system. If they get all A’s and B’s, have a reward incentive in place if they achieve this goal.
For example, if my child was to get all A’s and B’s on a report card, then they are able to choose between going to the store and buying a new item (set a monetary limit in advance if you use this as a reward) or having a sleep over party with their closest friends. The rewards should be "negotiated" between the parent and the child to ensure everyone’s needs are being met.
Never, ever present threats or punishment. This rarely gets long term results and can create more harm than good to your child.
3. Stay involved:
Children get a sense of comfort when they know their parents are genuinely involved in their school life and activities. Make sure to have an open line of communication with teachers at the school.
An open line of communication will keep you in the loop if their academic performance starts to slip due to low test grades or missing assignments. If you have an opportunity to coach a sport that your child is interested in then take advantage of that time to bond and spend more time with him/her.
Yes, the cliché "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" couldn’t be truer than when raising children.
The time and effort that you and your child are able to dedicate at the beginning of the school year will ensure a smooth ride for the remainder of the year and also a good foundation for a successful father-child relationship.
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Lisa Brown, MA, LPC, NCC, is a practicing therapist who helps people overcome life transitions specifically related to loss. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit her website www.counseling-helps.org.