Your first parent-teacher conference after separation or divorce can be unsettling. The event may bring back memories of happier times, and the excitement of raising young children together. It may be an unwelcome reminder that your family is no longer in tact, and that your life hasn’t gone the way you expected.
If you and your former spouse are so volatile that you have a hard time being in the same room, ask the teacher if you can have separate conferences. Some schools will not accommodate your request, however, so you will need to make the most of possibly attending with your ex. Here are five tips to make your first parent-teacher conference after divorce a success.
- Keep the focus on your child. The conference can heighten insecurities: What has the teacher heard about me? Why are all the other parents married? My ex’s new partner has no business being here! None of these concerns should occupy space in your head during the next half hour. If you find your mind wandering into dangerous terrain, shift your focus back to your child. The purpose of the conference is to find out about your child’s academic performance, social interactions, and areas for growth. Bring a list of questions and take notes to help you stay on track.
- Treat your ex like a business partner. In a sense, you and your ex ARE business partners; you’re in the business of co-parenting your child. Approach the conference as you would a work event. How would you interact with an irksome colleague? You would probably not roll your eyes and respond with dripping sarcasm. Call forth the same composure you have at work during your conference. Check your body language and tone of voice. Listen respectfully, even if you disagree. If you don’t like something your ex says during the conference, bring it up privately afterward. Taking the high road makes it more likely that your ex will do the same.
- Don’t blame your ex for your child’s academic problems. Now is not the time to point out your ex’s difficulty overseeing homework, getting your child to bed at a reasonable hour, and any other parenting gaffes. Blame never solved problems or gained someone’s cooperation. It will certainly not impress the teacher. It will, however, hurt your child and generate conflict, so concentrate on being a gracious co-parent.
- Don’t compete with your ex for the Best Parent Award. “Casually” mentioning the things you do to help your child succeed – ensuring he had the best dinosaur diorama, packing artisanal lunches, turning every moment into a teaching point – is obnoxious. The conference is not about proving which parent is “best,” it’s about learning how your kid is doing at school and what you can do to support him. If you have a burning need to be validated, then ask yourself why. Are you embarrassed by your divorce? Are you envious of or threatened by your ex? Are you determined to “win” at parenting because you “failed” at marriage? The only place to find validation is from within. If you’re confident in your parenting skills, and feel that you’re doing the best job you can, then you won’t need other people to tell you you’re a great parent.
- Manage your emotions. Does the mere thought of your ex spike your blood pressure or send you into a panic spiral? Then get a handle on your emotions beforehand so you don’t walk into the conference feeling unhinged. Take time to visualize how you want the event to go. Meditate. Go for a long walk. “Write out” your feelings in a journal. Skip the double shot cappuccino and eat a balanced meal instead. Bring your coping skills to the conference: deep breathing, holding a grounding stone, focusing on the moment and not the outcome. You can keep it together for a half hour! The more you do to stay grounded, the less you’ll worry about your ex.
As anxiety-provoking as this first parent-teacher conference may be, you need to get used to attending school events with your ex present. Remember that your child may be anxious as well, especially if he’s witnessed conflict. Preparing for the conference ahead of time can help you be your best self, and show your child that you love him or her more than you hate your ex.
Are you in the process of divorce and wondering how co-parenting fits in with your child custody plans? Does your current parenting time plan or custody arrangement need to be changed? We can help. Please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation. Secure your future. Call today: 888-888-0919.