The Savvy Single Parent
Q. I am divorced,
work full-time, and have three children, one in high school, one in middle
school, and one in grade school. In my limited time, I want to be an involved
That's admirable! And you can do it. Don't buy in to
the stereotypes that you're automatically a worse parent if you're single, or
that you have to be better than anyone else or your child will suffer. Single
parents are often the teacher's favorite, and often have highly successful
Even though kids with only one parent in the home are
indeed overrepresented on learning disability and at-risk rolls, that doesn't
mean schools are mistreating them. In fact, most education activists say
schools are doing a great job with children from one-parent households.
But . . . you're right, it's a special challenge. Here
are some ways to excel as a parent advocate:
Work on your
relationship with your ex. It's not only good for the children, it's impressive
to the school community.
Divide up the academic
areas in which you each will mentor your children. Split the workload by class
subject, or perhaps one of you will monitor homework and the other will take
tests and projects.
Provide your kids with
good nutrition, enough sleep, a place to study, hugs, kisses, and get school
paperwork in on time. Remember, children from single-parent households may be
under more pressure and stress than others, and need security and routine more
Make sure to have both
of your names, household addresses and phone numbers in the student directory
if you both are in town, for the kids' friends to find them and present a
unified front to the community, even though you're technically split.
Early in the school
year, one or both of you should stop in, see each teacher, and give them the
noncustodial parent's name, address and phone number, urging the teachers to
call either of you if there's a problem.
Volunteer at least once
a year and attend at least one parents' group meeting. Don't get labeled as a
"no-show," which is a common complaint about single parents.
Both of you should come
to curriculum night, parent-teacher conferences, concerts, science fairs,
musicals, and other events. Put your differences aside for the sake of the
child. Be cordial. Keep your sense of humor. And keep the focus on what's best
for your child.
Homework: Single parents are even more pressed for time than
married parents, but here's a list of 50
ways to help your child's school from the University of Minnesota, and many
of them require just an hour or two.