by: Julia Rodgers
With millions of divorced people living in the United States (40-50%), many are co-parenting and sharing the responsibility of raising children with an ex-spouse. As a result, fewer than half of all American children are living in households with traditional family structures, according to a recent study prepared by Pew Research Center. When parents go through a divorce, the children are affected in a wide variety of ways from restlessness, to emotional stress and strain, to anger and bitterness, as well as a host of other emotional issues. The effects of a divorce can have a tremendous impact on a child's overall performance, including the child’s academic performance. When a child’s academic performance suffers, it’s time for parents to set aside their differences and agree to plan, and agree, upon the academic well-being of the children. According to an article titled Kids, Divorce and School Success, both experts and parents who were once children of divorced parents indicate that the positive effects of planning, good communication, a strong awareness of problems that could take place as a result of the divorce, paired with finding the time to address emerging difficulties; families that are affected by divorce can overcome hurdles with positive and supportive relationships in place. As a result, children have the support they need to become successful academically.
When co-parenting, divorced parents should agree to make their child's academic performance and education in general, a top priority. Those who are faced with the commitment of co-parenting, in an effort to successfully raise their children, may find the following tips on how to best co-parent while discussing academic expectations with children after a divorce to be of great help.
Related Reading: 7 Tips for asking to Kids About Divorce
Focus on the Children and Do What's Best for Them
According to Mary Lynn Crow, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Education at the University of Texas at Arlington, most divorced parents tend to shift their focus towards their own survival. This isn’t always the best approach. Rather, focusing on the child and ensuring they are not falling apart from the impact of the divorce should, in fact, be the top priority. In doing so, parents should communicate with their children by discussing:
- Current academic performance
- Future academic goals
- Overall academic expectations.
Listen and Communicate Effectively with Children
During the co-parenting process, both parents should observe and listen to their children concerning any academic challenges, abilities, and future academic goals. If children are currently struggling academically, the parents should hear them out, pinpoint when the struggle began, and identify the source of the problem (which could be due to the divorce.) During this process, the parents should also reassure the children that they are still loved and that the divorce is not their fault, so that they can begin to move forward with some form of normalcy.
Related Reading: How to Help Your Children Adjust During a Divorce
Discuss Homework and After-School Activities
Parents should agree to develop a plan whereby the children can maintain a normal schedule for completing their homework and afterschool activities. Together the parents can discuss this plan with the children to ensure that their performance stays up to par, and that they only participate in afterschool activities that have been agreed-upon by both parties. This is the time for the child to also communicate some of the activities that will be taking place in the future with parents.
Setting Goals and Expectations
It's important for parents to set academic goals for their children, and to allow them to share their academic interests. This may be of greater importance when older children are involved. They may have plans to attend college, and if this is the case, it is important for parents to communicate with them about both academic and career goals.
Discuss College Costs and Tuition
When co-parenting, one or both parents will likely be responsible for the cost of their children's college education. There are times when students can work while attending college—using the money earned from part-time jobs to cover some of the college expenses. In any case, this should be discussed so that all parties agree and are on the same page, as this can be a huge responsibility for the person footing the bill.
Making Co-Parenting Easier
There is much more to co-parenting after a divorce than most divorced parents realize. And discussing the academic needs of a child’s college education is probably one of the more daunting ones. According to Marion Wildie, a senior editor at Greatschools and a divorced parent herself, just as there are both good and bad marriages, there are also good and bad divorces. There are high conflict divorces and low conflict divorces. In low conflict divorces, it's easier to co-parent when parents are getting along relatively well—particularly for the sake of the children. This makes it easier to talk to the children about academic goals and expectations, which makes it easier on everyone involved in the long-run.
Julia Rodgers is the firm's business director. Read related articles here. Remember, every case is different, and every set of facts is different, and therefore, the contents of this article do not provide legal advice or opinions.
Should you require legal assistance or have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact Mavrides Law at 617-723-9900, or email us at info@MavridesLaw.com