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Easing awkward 'back to school' situations after divorce

The school year is once again underway. This year could be tougher than others for students in Lafayette Parish. For awhile, the flood situation in the region raised questions about whether doors would be open, but things appear to be on track with more than 95 percent of students having reported for classes as they resumed last week.

If there is one thing of which the Acadiana region has been reminded in recent months, it is that life does not always go without a hitch. Not only can the weather wreak havoc on everyone, there are families staggered by the upheaval associated with divorce. Children of divorce facing the unknowns of a new school year may also be feeling unsettled by their parents' break up. Of course, it can be tough on parents, too, as they come to terms with new child custody arrangements.

Divorce can have a way of creating feelings of awkwardness in and around the school environment. Sensitive educators are not oblivious to that reality and many would likely agree that there are a number of things that families of divorce and teachers can work on together to make things go smoother.

Not surprisingly, communication is high on the list. As one teacher puts it, co-parents, even if they are on the most amicable of terms, should not be made to feel they have to adhere to typical models of parent-teacher meetings. If separate sessions are required to keep everyone comfortable, then they should be arranged.

Another thing teachers can do is make sure that both parents receive the same communications about the school activities involving their children. As the students get into high school, it might be easy to fall into the trap of thinking of them as adults. They are not. They may need particular support through the divorce situation.

On the parent side of the equation, something as simple as a school's request for a family photo could prove to be the thing that puts a mom or dad into a tailspin. What should the photo depict?

What most experts seem to stress is the importance of fostering open discussions between parents and teachers rooted in an acknowledgment of each family's situation.

Source: ChicagoTribune.com, "Newly divorced? Back-to-school situations don't have to be awkward," Erin Silver, Aug. 5, 2016

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