A Back-to-School Checklist for the Single Parent

Posted August 14, 2009 by

Yes, it is time to get our kids back on a school schedule. My blog post might just be a reminder for some, but it could be a very important checklist for the new single parent. With that in mind, I’ve gathered a lot of great suggestions from other single parents who have been there before, and know what works.

Your Child’s  Sleep Schedule
The best advice I can offer on this subject is to start early. You do not want to attempt to get your kids started on a proper sleep schedule the night before school starts. There is nothing worse than hearing about the whining, complaining and lack of attention that will happen at school from the lack of sleep. Furthermore, it is embarrassing to attending your first parent/teacher meeting and having the entire discussion about your child’s well being! Sleep is as important as food and water. If you are newly divorced, make sure you and your ex set a time for your child’s bedtime. It is recommended that your child gets 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night. For more on this, check out James Lehman’s article, Motivating Underachievers Part II: Get Your Child on Track before School Starts.

Clothes Inventory
Keeping an inventory of clothes between divorced parent’s households has its own unique challenges. Depending on the relationship status, it is perfectly normal to label your child’s clothes for the sake of inventory exchange. I would strongly recommend disclosing your reason for marking the clothes. Your goal is to make every effort to keep an open dialog. Offering a bi-weekly clothes exchange will help keep both household’s clothes inventory balanced and communication between all parties peaceful. Make sure your markings are distinct to you, but not embarrassing to your child.

Emergency Contact and Health Insurance Information
For a variety of reasons, some single parents do not have the participation of the other parent in child’s daily school life. This is where it is especially important to have your emergency contact available and shared with another family member, friend, or relative. I have a “Gal Pals / Guy Pals” in place, which are other friends of mine that I can rely on as back up for any emergency related to my children and school activities. Make sure your emergency contact has a copy of your health insurance information, family doctor’s name and phone number. Another important tip is to save this information on your cell phone, but make sure this information is typed in backwards so the information will be harder to understand by anyone else but you if you ever lose the phone.

At the beginning of every school year, your child’s school will ask for all of your personal information and it is perfectly normal and important to disclose on the information packet that you are a single parent, and if you are sharing custody or have sole custody. Make sure your school knows your status and how they can contact you. Don’t make assumptions; make sure your child’s teacher has your contact information as well. It is also perfectly normal to request a teacher’s contact information, such as an email address. This information gives you the opportunity to send an email with all of your contact information directly to your teacher and gives both parties a direct method of communication. This is especially important if you are co-parenting. Staying up-to-date on homework and school activities through email avoids any miscommunication between parties.

I hope these suggestions were helpful and that your back-to-school routines will go as smoothly as possible! If you have any other back-to-school tips for single parents, please share them here!


RJ Jaramillo is a single father of three and the founder of www.singledad.com. While facing the daily challenges of raising three children on his own after his divorce, RJ realized how few resources were available to help him during this journey. He started SingleDad.com in 2007. RJ lives in Southern California with his family.

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  1. T Arnold (Edit) Report

    Here is a checklist formatted web site to help teens navigate the college process independently without all the hype and distracting ads:


    I agree checklists work wonders. So do kitchen timers for negotiating tasks our children are masters at avoiding. If you say we’ll spend 20 minutes cleaning the house together and they can stop when the timer goes off, they sometimes want to keep going and help you finish!

  2. Dale Sadler (Edit) Report

    I appreciate your article. I am a School Counselor and when I request information, some parents act as though I’m asking them to donate a kidney.



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