amicable’s guide to talking to the school about your separation

Posted 25 August 2023

Our charity partner amicable has produced a useful blog on how to to talk to your child school after a separation.

Separation affects many elements of your life and your child(ren)’s. A crucial part of reducing the impact of your separation on your child is to ensure that their school is a stabilising factor and a supportive environment as they navigate the change. 

Should you tell your child’s school about your separation? 

In short, yes. However, before informing the school, you must ensure you’ve told your child about your separation. Telling your child about your separation is never easy, but it’s an important part of the process. We recommend reading our guide if you need help with this. 

After parental separation, school may become essential as a source of continuity and stability for your child. Your child may wish to keep your separation a secret from school, but their head teacher and class teacher must know what’s going on so that they can keep an eye on your child’s well-being and any spot signs that your child is not coping, such as changes in their behaviour or performance. If the school and your child know about your separation, they can talk openly and address any emerging issues. 

Tip: If possible and safe to do so, present a united front and talk to the school together or send the school a joint letter. 

How will you communicate with the school?

It’s the job of both parents to prioritise their child’s education, so avoid only one parent “dealing” with the school. If you jointly decide to assign one parent as a primary contact to communicate with the school, ensure you’ve discussed what will happen if there’s an emergency or a situation that needs urgent attention. Given new schedules post-separation, the school must know who to notify and the best way to contact you. Whatever you decide, ensure the school is updated and arrange for duplicate information to be sent to you both.

Another point is to respect the school’s boundaries and avoid involving school staff in personal disputes. It’s vital not to put the school in the middle of your separation or use it as a bargaining chip. Focus on your child’s education and wellbeing during interactions with the school. 

Tip: Ensure the school has up-to-date contact information, such as new postal addresses if you’ve changed since separating. 

How should you approach ‘parent’s evening’ as separated parents?

Whenever possible, attend parent’s evening meetings together. It shows your child that you’re both interested in their education, and it presents a united front to the school. This will also tell the school that everyone is working together at home so that the flow of communication remains constant. 

Tip: You can use parenting plans to agree on shared-care arrangements for your child and keep on top of these through co-parenting app.

How do you navigate school events and activities?

Coordinate with each other to ensure you’re both aware of school events, extracurricular activities, and important dates. This helps prevent your child from feeling caught in the middle and ensures you can both participate in their life. It can be highly distressing for a child for neither parent to show up to a school activity such as a play, sports day or parent’s evening. 

Will counselling, co-parenting coaching or other therapeutic support help?

If issues arise between you and your child’s other parent over education or other topics, you should consider seeing a co-parenting coach, mediator or counsellor to help resolve these. Examples of typical issues are: paying for school activities/ other expenses or choosing a secondary school or university. You don’t need to do it alone, and when you’re in the middle of a separation, having external support can help keep your child’s wellbeing as the central focus. 

Keeping the lines of communication open and respectful will foster a positive school environment for your child. amicable offers co-parenting coaching that aims to help you navigate specific issues and develop a healthy co-parenting relationship. 

How do I know if my child is not coping? 

You should stay actively involved in your child’s education, monitoring their academic progress. Working together to support your child’s education will positively impact their adaptability to your separation. 

If your child’s behaviour is worsening and impacting their school progress, an intervention might be necessary. It’s important to remember that children are impacted by conflict and parental absence, not the separation itself. By separating well and keeping your children in the centre of your focus and not the middle of your separation, you can reduce its impact on them. Your child’s school will be able to help you support them through this time and provide stability and comfort during this transition.  This podcast episode explains how separation can impact children, as well as signs to look out for. 

Tip: Continue to use ‘we’ instead of only using ‘I’ when talking to your child. For instance, ‘We’re so proud of you for getting that mark on your test’ or ‘Your mum and I are pleased you did all your homework’. 

Remember, the primary focus should always be on your child’s wellbeing throughout this transitional period. Their school can be a fantastic resource for you and an essential support for them.