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Back to School Tips for Separated Parents in Northern Ireland

September is a busy time of year for any family.

If you’re recently separated and trying to juggle the new school routine there can be additional complexities to contend with. 

Ideally, children’s routines should be maintained, but that is not always possible due to different parenting styles and circumstances. 

While holidays, of course, do call for some degree of variation, you can help with the transition by supporting each other and your children between different environments and routines. 

Family Law Associate Shannon McLorie offers helpful advice if you’re recently separated and looking for advice to make the academic routine transition go as smoothly as possible.

Effective Communication 

Communication is a key foundation to successful co-parenting. 

With your children: 

Engage in positive discussions about school and forthcoming events with your children as the holiday draws to a close. Get children excited about new endeavours and help them to set goals for the next academic period. Remind them of the friends they will see again and favourite activities they will be able to participate in. This also helps teach them to look forward to whatever lies ahead.

With your ex-partner:

Suggest your availability and confirm the details of the new back-to-school schedule.. Make sure to take into consideration any extracurricular activities after school. The sooner this is set up the easier it will be for everyone to know their role and settle back into the routine.

Stick to Visitation Agreements 

Visitation plans are a very important part of any regular family routine between parents and their children. It’s essential that you realistically manage expectations for both your children and ex-partner- and try not to change or deviate at the last minute, as this can cause upset, arguments and resentment.

With your ex partner:

Confirm the next date and time with the other parent well in advance. Stick to your plan where possible.

With your children:

Chat it through with the children and remind them of the last few days of the holiday as well as into the first few days after the holiday. This will hopefully help ease separation anxiety and help them adjust back to the normal run of things.

Aim for a smooth handover 

Children often dread this moment when they are handed over from one parent to the other, mainly because of tension and conflict between the parties.

With your ex partner:

Make sure you stick to your dates and times. Keep communications amicable for the children’s sake. A relaxed, friendly atmosphere will set everyone’s minds at ease.

With your children:

Make sure the hand-over is a pleasant occasion by being excited to see them off or welcome them back. 

Notify Teachers

If you and your partner have just recently separated, it’s a good idea to communicate this discreetly to the children’s teachers, as this can notify the teacher so maybe they help with the children’s transition and highlight to them your family routine patterns, so they will know which parent to expect for drop-offs, collections, any school events or  parent-teacher meetings.


“For successful co-parenting, a degree of familiar structure and consistency should be maintained where possible, to facilitate a successful transition for children.”

Keep a Consistent Routine

As with any routine, consistency is crucial. 

Routine: To help promote children’s sense of security and stability, re-establish your regular routines as soon as the holiday ends. These include meals, activities, etc. If they were away on holiday with their other parent, be prepared for their return and welcome them back into the routine immediately. If they were away on holiday with you, talk to them about getting back to their usual routine and this should encourage them to normalise back into the swing of things with ease.

Bedtime: Children need much more sleep than adults, it’s crucial to their brain and body development. If a child’s sleeping routine is not set in place by the time they have to go back to school, they will be exhausted. This could cost them more time adjusting to the academic challenges as well as social interaction with their peers. Allocate a little extra time for rituals, such as reading bedtime stories together, until everyone is settled in again.

House Rules: Children thrive on structure and guidelines. It might be helpful to discuss the differences between the rules of the two separate households at this point with both the children and your ex, to avoid confusion and misinterpretation at a later stage.

Give it Time & Patience

Above all, giving your children time to cope with your separation is very important. 

Be patient, allow them to settle in at their own pace and on their own terms.

Give yourself and your ex time too. Everyone adapts differently, be mindful of work schedules and other commitments which might impact the transition period.

Accept that it will take a while for everyone to get back into the swing of things and try to be lenient during this transition period.

Also, don’t try to do it all by yourself- it takes a team effort. Make sure you and your ex are on the same page when it comes to the children’s school routine.

Get in Touch

If you’re recently separated and need help to finalise a divorce or in the process of a relationship breakdown, get in touch with Shannon and our team.

We help families navigate the difficulties of separation with practical, compassionate advice.

Call us on 028 9022 7808 or make an online enquiry today.

Get in touch

To find out more about how we can help you with your query, please contact us.