If you’re still adjusting to a divorce, you may be avoiding situations where you might run into your ex. That’s understandable, especially if there’s bitterness between you. Nevertheless, you’re still parents, and that means you should both participate in parent-teacher conferences with your child’s teacher. No matter how awkward the interaction might be, it’s in your child’s best interest for you to be there.
Parent-teacher conferences are obviously important when it comes to getting updates on your son or daughter’s academic performance. But they’re also an opportunity to form a connection with the teacher and gain a better understanding of your child’s overall emotional health.
If you’ve considered canceling a parent-teacher conference because you don’t want to be in the same room with your ex, consider these suggestions for navigating the situation in a healthy, productive way.
- Alert the teacher about your situation. Five minutes into the meeting is not the time for your child’s teacher to find out that you and your spouse aren’t on speaking terms. Call the teacher or send an email before your conference is scheduled so he or she is not caught off-guard. In most cases, your child’s teacher will appreciate the update.
- Communicate with your ex. Whether or not you and your ex are getting along well, you both still share the responsibility of your child’s education. That means you’ll need to work together from time to time. Communicating ahead of time will help eliminate any surprises, or at least give you each a chance to discuss expectations and boundaries.
- Do your homework, so things can stay on track. While navigating your relationship with your ex is critical, it’s not the reason you’re in this meeting. Determine ahead of time what questions you want to ask the teacher and which areas may concern you – and keep your remarks and interest focused on the task at hand.
- Be respectful to your ex and your child’s teacher. You may not be able to control the situation, but you can control how you treat the others taking part in the conference. Being cordial or amicable with you ex may not be in the cards, but at least be courteous of his or her time and role as a co-parent. This goes beyond the words you say to include your demeanor and body language as well.
- Consider scheduling separate conferences, if necessary. Your relationship with your ex might still be highly volatile, and, for now, being in the same room may not be an option. If that’s the case, email your ex and the teacher ahead of time to find out if separate conferences can be scheduled. Before you do, however, consider the downside to this arrangement. Meeting separately opens the door for possible miscommunication between you and your ex about the information the teacher presents to you.
Parent-teacher conferences should be one of the most important engagements on your calendar – even after your divorce. By communicating honestly and remaining respectful, both you and your ex can stay informed and engaged in your child’s education.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.