Fall is upon us and families everywhere are sending their children back to school. According to many estimates, at least half of those children are engaged in a step-relationship of some sort. Yet, educational institutions lack a clear and consistent approach to managing non-custodial parents and/or stepparents when it comes to exchange of information. Policies and practices vary from school to school, teacher to teacher.

Children of divorce used to live primarily with one parent or the other, and that parent was the school’s only point of contact. Nowadays, it is more common for parents to share legal and/or physical custody. Add to the mix a stepparent or two, and it is easy to understand how school administrators and teachers become confused and parents end up frustrated.

To minimize their angst and yours, here are some tips to start the new school year on the right foot.

1. Include non-residential and stepparents on registration forms and emergency contact forms. If possible, have each party sign the forms to demonstrate that you are a team and work together to support your child’s education.

2. Provide addresses for both residential and non-residential households so they are both added to the schools mailing list. Throughout the year, both households will be kept in the loop and neither parent is responsible for informing the other.

3. Clearly articulate the role non-custodial and/or stepparents will play in your child’s education. For example, if they will pick children up after school, chaperone field trips or attend parent-teacher conferences. Ask for the necessary consent forms or confidentiality waivers so you can sign them for school files.

4. Ask the administration for any other policies that might affect non-custodial parents and stepparents participation in your child’s education.

5. If the teacher compiles an email list (or list-serve) to disseminate information to parents, ask him or her to add non-residential parents and/or stepparents as well. This works well for general broadcasts to all parents, but be prepared to provide the teacher with one primary contact to communicate individual concerns.

6. If your child will be engaged in extra-curricular activities, make sure that both households receive contact information and schedules. Find out if coaches, tutors or others need additional forms signed or if the school’s general forms will suffice.

Regardless of age, your child’s needs are best met when his/her teacher understands their circumstances. It’s not necessary to share every detail but the teacher should at least know that your child moves between two homes and be familiar with the people involved in their routine care. By partnering with your child’s teacher, other parent and stepparents, you give your child the best possible environment to support his or her learning.

Author's Bio: 

Angie Blackwell, Certified Stepfamily Foundation Coach and founder of Blackwell Family Resources, LLC helps newly remarried parents establish strong stepfamilies that last! Her individualized coaching program, “Stepfamilies InSync ©”, honors your family’s unique character by incorporating your values and building on your strengths. She covers everything from mundane, daily routines to questions you never thought you’d be answering. Find more of her down-to earth advice and recommended resources at www.blackwellfamilyresources.com