Turning back-to-school time into quality time for divorced parents

After-school time can be challenging for single parents, but a few easy and fun activities can help to keep single-parent households strong and happy.

It's back-to-school time for many children in Tennessee. It's a challenge for every family to balance work, school and family time. Being able to spend quality time with the kids can be especially difficult in single-parent households. Divorced parents often have the responsibility of making ends meet and taking care of the children without the help of a second parent. This can result in a disorganized household where the children are either left to their own devices or indulged if one or both parents feel guilty for not being able to spend as much time with them as they previously had.

Understandably, it's very difficult on children when their parents split up. According to Parents magazine, children need to feel like they are loved and appreciated by both parents, and quality time is important. If one parent is preoccupied with his or her work or social life and allows the children to entertain themselves, the parent may be seen as the "fun" parent temporarily, but in time kids will begin to feel that they are not as important in that parent's life. It also becomes a problem if one parent tries to overcompensate by taking the kids on extravagant trips or other outings, or showers them with gifts, during visitation. According to Huffington Post, when one parent is forced to be the "bad guy" and enforce rules and structure without the help of the other parent, it can create an imbalance that can affect children for life.

Lifelong effects of absentee parenting

When children are ignored or have their needs met by gifts and trips, rather than quality attention, they can suffer in terms of self-esteem, bad grades, depression and poor relationships as adults. It's crucial that children understand they are still worth each parent's time after a divorce. By spending even a few minutes of one-on-one time with a child each day, and ensuring routines and rules are upheld, parents can help their children adjust to life after a divorce and to grow up more emotionally balanced and secure.

Fun and easy quality time activities for fall

With school in session, time with the kids can become even more limited. The following are some easy, fun and worthwhile activities that parents can do with children that don't need to involve expensive trips or gifts, or setting them in front of the computer or television:

  • Involve children in planning, cooking and serving family meals.
  • Teach children fun ways to do chores and to help with repair projects, such as purchasing them child-sized tools and cleaning implements.
  • Actively participate in homework and reading time.
  • Set aside a special family night for board games, video games or home movies.
  • Look for free or low-cost community events, such as fall hay rides, corn mazes, carnivals or art shows.

While the weather is still warm, families can even hold such fun outdoor activities as backyard campout, barbeques and marshmallow roasts, says PBS.

Children thrive on routines and structure. After a divorce, it can greatly help to establish new routines that strengthen the bond between children and parents, and, of course, to ensure that children understand the rules and consequences still apply.

Talking to an attorney

The first few weeks and months after a separation can be hard on parents and children. If you're considering a divorce, it's important to speak with an experienced family law attorney who can help you come up with the best parenting plan to benefit everyone in the family.

Keywords: divorce, child custody, visitation