OCTOBER 2004 -
School Dances: Sharing Education Information
Although most children today do not live in
a home with both of their biological parents, many schools still act as if all
of their students do. Whether your child spends most of his or her time at your
home, or at the other parentís home, you probably want to be informed and stay
involved with your childís education. Unfortunately, many schools make this
If your divorce or custody agreement is still being worked
out, ask your attorney whether a clause can be inserted that specifically gives
both parents access to school records and information. This clause can be your
documentation if there is ever a question about who should receive information.
And even if you present this, some schools are still flummoxed about how to
handle it. Their database might only support one mailing address per child.
You must stress that you have a right to the information and it is their responsibility
to figure out how to provide it.
Once you and the other parent have physically separated,
let the school know. Give them both addresses and phone numbers and ask that
notices, report cards, and other information be sent to both addresses. If they
have any problem with this request, show them your divorce or custody judgment
that spells out your right to access all information. While this will ensure
you both receive important notifications, it is not enough to keep both of you
involved on a day to day basis. Most school information is not sent by mail,
but is instead sent home with your child. For example, if your child is at your
home Monday through Thursday and with the other parent every Friday after school,
a notice sent home on Friday about things the child needs to bring the following
Tuesday is not going to come directly to you.
To deal with these kinds of problems, it is a good idea to develop a plan with
the other parent that will allow you to share all information that comes home
with the child. Whoever is with the child after school will read all the papers
and fax a copy to the other parent, pass along a photocopy, or send the original
after reviewing it. This will make sure that both of you have all the information.
Doing this does require you to make a commitment to keeping the other parent
informed, however once you realize it is a two way street, youíll have the incentive
to share information.
If you play games with school information youíre not punishing
the other parent, youíre punishing your child. Even if you donít have the greatest
relationship with your childís other parent, that parent is an important part
of your childís life and deserves to have the chance to be involved.
Homework is trouble spot for many families. Consider making
a rule that whichever parent is with the child that day is responsible for making
sure that assignments that come home on that day are completed. Some non-custodial
parents feel that children should not have to do homework when they are with
them. What children really need is two parents who are involved with the childís
life and committed to his or her success. Helping a child with homework is another
way to show you care and to be a part of the childís life. It might not seem
like fun, but itís important for parents and kids to share fun times as well
as everyday times.
For long range assignments such as projects, you might wish
to decide that each of you will handle supervision of tasks you are most comfortable
with. For example, many dads like to do projects that involve construction and
moms might prefer to help with art projects or cooking. You shouldnít feel bound
by gender stereotypes though and should follow your own interests and skills.
Working on projects might mean changing around your parenting schedule. If you
see your child alternate weekends and are going to be helping him build a volcano
that actually works, you may need to schedule some time before your next regular
weekend in order to get it done. Remember that the visitation schedule is supposed
to benefit your child, not lock everyone into an immovable plan.
When you schedule parent teacher conferences you may wish
to go together, or you may wish to schedule separate times. Whatever is most
comfortable for you should be the option you choose. Most teachers are willing
to handle things either way. Many will also do a conference with you over the
phone if you canít attend an in person meeting.
The most important thing you can do to stay involved in
your childís school life is to communicate directly with the teacher. Tell him
or her you are divorced and stress that both of you want to be involved and
informed. Your teacher wants your child to succeed and knows that in order to
do so, both parents need to be supportive and informed.