Although you may not be living with the child any longer, your role in their life is vital to psychological and educational success. If you’re unclear about your position due to your current marital status, here’s are a few things teachers want every divorced dad to know.
Each year, over 1 million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. (Patrick F. Fagan and Robert Rector, “The Effects of Divorce on America,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, May 2000.) Divorce can be twice as hard when there are children involved. Not only are you forever connected to your former spouse, but your child’s facing emotional and physical stress.
Mounting evidence demonstrates that the devastating physical, emotional, and financial effects that divorce is having on these children will last into adulthood. (Patrick F. Fagan and Robert Rector, “The Effects of Divorce on America,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder, May 2000.) A child’s emotional trauma can be detrimental to their academic performance.
We Want You To Be Involved
Involvement of nonresident fathers is substantially lower than that of dads in two-parent homes; Nonresident father is more likely to be involved in their children’s education if the mothers have not remarried (NCES, 1997). Both parents should be involved regardless of marital status. Fathers shouldn’t assume that invitation to school functions is only for the mother or parent the child is living with during the time of the event.
Don’t be intimidated by the teacher or assume you must use fancy educational jargon to communicate with your child’s teacher. Schools provide ample opportunity for both parental involvement including volunteering in the classroom, field trip chaperone, eating lunch with your student or participating in class events and assemblies.
Research shows that students perform better academically, have fewer discipline problems, and become more responsible adults when their parents are actively involved in their learning. But over the years, “parent involvement” often has meant “mothers’ involvement.” (“A Call to Commitment: Fathers’ Involvement in Children’s Learning,” National Center for Fathering, June 2000). If both parents are unable to attend together, work out a schedule that is suitable for both parents.
Keep Contact Information Updated
To be involved in your child’s education you will need to provide contact information. Often fathers aren’t contacted because of failure to provide necessary information. As long as you’re not legally prohibited from being reached, make sure your child’s school has your information in their student records. Be sure to include any phone numbers, your address and your email. Some classrooms offer alternative ways for you to stay connected including:
- Handouts – School’s will send home flyers about upcoming events, reports about academic progress, fundraisers and other important announcements. Doing a quick sweep of your child’s book bag will help you stay up to date on what’s current.
- School Website – The school’s website is a great way to find out about school activities. Some schools even allow the teacher to provide links to their classroom web pages. On class web pages you’re likely to find information about the upcoming test, projects, field trips and other events.
- Mobile apps – Some teachers are even turning to apps to keep parents involved. Apps like Remind 101 allow teacher and parents to exchange messages that come straight to your phone. Other apps like ClassDojo and Live School enable parents to track positive and negative behaviors in the classroom through a point’s rewards system.
- Contact Your Child’s Teacher – Don’t wait for the teacher to call you. Calling may seem like a no-brainer, but the most reliable way to know what’s going on is to contact your child’s teacher. Periodically send an email or make a phone call asking for a report of your child’s behavior and current grades. Frequent contact will help you track any patterns in behavior or academic changes.
We are Willing To Accommodate Divorced Dads
In some cases, parents are unwilling to be around each other, and this is understandable. Make sure that the divorce settlement specifies the handling of schooling arrangements. Include who will pick up the child and how parent-teacher conferences will take place. Will both parents be present or will meetings need to be scheduled at separate times? Establishing expectations eliminates confusion and helps avoid possible confrontation. If parents have agreed to joint custody, this may affect transportation.
Schools are willing to accommodate and provide alternate transportation options for unique custody situations. The school will supply buses as long as they transport to that area. If transportation isn’t available, consider other options and share with your child’s teacher. Updated dismissal procedures along with a schedule will keep the student in a routine and eliminates confusion.
You Don’t Have to Go Into Details
Divorces are painful. Teachers are aware that divorces can be a result of irreconcilable differences or in some cases abuse. Breakups are uncomfortable to discuss. However, teachers are a big part of your child’s life and spend a significant amount of time with them. We don’t need to know the details of your divorce unless you feel it will be beneficial for your child’s success. Communicate what is necessary to make the transition for students as smooth as possible.
You Are Vital to Your Child’s Success
Divorces require everyone involved to adjust. Children with divorced parents are more likely to have emotional setbacks that in return can affect their academic progress. Children of divorced parents are twice as likely to drop out of high school than their peers who are still living with parents who did not divorce. (McLanahan, Sandefur, Growing Up With a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, Harvard University Press 1994). One way to prevent these academic setbacks is to stay involved and present in your child’s academics. Divorced dads are encouraged to continue academic involvement even after recent divorce.
Establish a Consistent Schedule
A schedule is going to be a significant part of your new life as a divorced dad. Children will have to divide their time between two households. A plan creates consistency. Establishing a consistent routine develops a sense of security and helps the child to stay organized. Staying organized creates an environment that is productive and not as stressful. Some ways that you can create a consistent schedule include:
- Arrange what days of the week the child will be with you – Don’t just choose days of the week, but you will also need to determine how often. Will you have weekly, bi-monthly or monthly time spent together?
- Determine transportation – On the days the child will be with you determine how they will get to you. The child may need to ride a different bus or be picked up. Make the school aware, so both the child and teacher are familiar with this procedure. If parents are unable to agree on transportation, consider bringing in a third party (family member, friend, etc.) to make transactions.
- Set aside time for academics -This can be time after school to go over homework or review on the weekends. Show your child that you care about their academic progress by maintaining a regimen for academics.
It’s Never Too Late to Be Involved
A divorce is an adjustment for all parties involved. You may be experiencing reluctance about your involvement. Although you and your former spouse are divorced, you’ll always be your child’s father. If you have neglected to be involved and your child’s education due to divorce, it’s never too late to jump back in. No matter how long you have been out of the loop start making strides to get involved in your child’s education. Children who experience divorce are at higher risk of suffering academic setbacks. However, if both parents and teachers work together by communicating, accommodating and maintaining a consistent routine, your child can potentially bypass those delays.