Going Back to School in 3 Easy Steps

These are the days when we return to routines, rising early for the school bus, getting backpacks packed, making lunches and sending little ones off with their homework. There’s a comfort with this familiarity for those of us who grew up with some semblance of public or private education: friends, sports, school lunches, homework, crushes, activities, parental involvement; early to bed, early to rise. But for those of us experiencing loss—any loss, really, but in this case, loss of a marriage—going back to school can be really difficult.

Schools involve children, and when routines

change, it’s weird for everyone involved.

Let’s talk about this: custody arrangements have children moving from parent to parent, home to home these days. When I was growing up, for better or for worse, children primarily lived with their mothers. Clearly staying in one home and seeing a father on the weekend or one day a week isn’t suited for every family. And courts feel differently today. There are benefits for both the parent and the child with such an arrangement, and making it work for all can be made easier once you set your mind to it. 

Here are a few hints:

1. Make it less stressful by getting organized before school begins:

  • Write to teachers and ask for text books if and when possible for both homes, and get organized right from the start.
  • Get school supplies for both homes so your child always has what they need.
  • Purchase duplicate undergarments and pjs, toiletries and school uniforms so your child is prepared and doesn’t have extra stress in the morning, wondering where their things are (make sure there’s enough clothing in each home at all times).
  • Show them where they wait for a bus in each neighborhood.
  • Have a small bag packed at all times for the things the child takes back and forth. This helps them know where things belong.

2. Have a calendar:

  • Ourfamilywizard.com makes organizing easier and co-parenting less antagonistic when the calendar is set and communication is clear between school, parents, MDs and tutors.
  • Create a calendar for little ones so they know when they’ll be in their other parent’s home, and help them mark off the schedule—it gives them a sense of control.
  • Set up a time for children to call and say “good night” each evening, provided it’s good for the child.
  • Know that even though you may be uncomfortable with the routine, all kids—even little ones—learn the rhythm and get used to going from home to home.

3. Find a way to make your night(s) off fun:

  • You have a built-in babysitter, so take a night off!
  • Sleep in! Enjoy the late mornings in which you don’t have to pack sandwiches.
  • Go out—you deserve time to be with other adults and to experiment with dating and have fun.

I know those first few weeks (months?) were really hard for me when my kids went to their father’s home. Even now, I don’t always get to see them off on the first day of school, which is weird and awkward and reeks of disappointment, even though my children are in high school!

But I love my nights off! I’m so grateful for the mornings I get to sleep in and the nights I get to skip making dinner and go out with friends. I appreciate being with my own thoughts and watching TV late into the night if I wish. I’ve found knowing that they’re safe a relief, and knowing that they want to see their father and be with him makes it easier for me to accept being solo.

Our children will accept the routines; it’s what they learn and get to call normal and familiar. Let it be easy and make it so for yourself. It gives you time to be you again.


Laura Bonarrigo

New York, NY