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Advice for Divorced Parents Regarding Teacher Conferences

Brian James, President of C.E.L Associates

How to Avoid Harming Your Child's Future Education and Well Being

Most parents know that parent/teacher conferences are a great way for them to learn about their child's daily activities in school, whether the child is doing well and if their child needs help at home. But - what happens in families in which there is a divorce or a pending divorce? What steps can the parents take to avoid conflict and not harm their child?

Brian James, president of C.E.L. & Associates, a certified mediator who specializes in pre and post-divorce issues has this advice. "Your child's teacher should be the first one informed that there is a pending divorce or if a divorce has just occurred. Your child spends more time in school than anywhere else, and this situation might have a negative effect on your child," he says. If the parents are cordial to each other, they can attend parent/teacher conferences together. That way, both parents "can hear the same information and ask questions regarding their child's education," James points out. "If only one parent attends, the other one is left in the dark." Unfortunately, in most divorce situations, this is exactly what happens.

More often than not, sitting together with a teacher is virtually impossible due to the antagonistic and negative vibes radiating from each parent. This makes the teacher uncomfortable-and in this hostile atmosphere- you may not receive all the information you need to know as a parent about your child's academic achievements or non-achievements.

Therefore, Mr. James has some advice on how divorced parents should handle teacher/parent conferences.

  • Make sure the teacher notifies both parents what days and what times are available for conferences.
  • Each parent should schedule individual conference time with the teacher. Because conference times and days are limited, one parent may need to meet the teacher at a different time and day. This will alleviate divorced parents from having to be together, but at the same time, allow them equal time with the teacher. This results in each parent learning the same information about their child.
  • If only one parent can attend the conference, take notes. Even if you and your ex aren't on speaking terms, sending him or her notes about the conference and the teacher is in the best interest of your child. Both of you need to be on the same page regarding your child's education.
  • If the teacher can't schedule two separate in-person meeting times with the parents due to a lack of time, as an alternative, ask for a phone conference time. Most teachers will comply with this request. "No matter how much you and your ex dislike each other and want nothing to do with one another, you still have a child you need to parent together," he emphasizes. "School is where children learn. If the two of you aren't on the same page regarding the child's current education, then you are both unnecessarily harming your child's future education and well-being."

In his private practice, Mr. James focuses on keeping the children's best interests at the forefront of the mediation process. He sees clients in Chicago's Loop, Crystal Lake, Libertyville, Naperville, Rolling Meadows and Wilmette in Illinois, as well as southern Wisconsin, and schedules meetings that are convenient for his clients.

He can be contacted by phone at (312)524-5829.     
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