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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 parent.


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 students.


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:


n       Work on your relationship with your ex. It's not only good for the children, it's impressive to the school community.


n       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.


n       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 than most.


n       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.


n       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.


n       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.


n       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.


By Susan Darst Williams Parental Involvement 21 2008


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