Northampton Press

Monday, February 17, 2020

Child custody and school grades problems

Friday, August 2, 2019 by The Press in Focus

Q. I have had shared custody of my 9- and 11-year-old children with their father for the last five years. This past year, the youngest. a girl, sometimes refuses to see her father. Our 11-year-old son’s grades have dropped from As and Bs to Cs and Ds. As parents, we share similar values and expectations for our children.

The first suggestion came from panelist Mike Daniels, who said what often happens in shared custody situations is that the custody times mostly exclude individual time.

“The children are always together with the parent, so they miss out on one-on-one experiences,” said Daniels.

Daniels recommended that the mother sit down with each child individually and have a conversation about what is happening at school and any changes that that might be affecting them.

“For their ages, the children are going through normal developmental stages,” panelist Pam Wallace said. “They are entering a phase where they have to define things, and there also is a normal push back from being told what to do every day,” said Wallace.

Panelist Denise Continenza said, “Parents often wrongly blame themselves for even the slightest changes in their children’s behavior. The children’s behavior likely has nothing to do with the parents or, unless something specific has happened, to the custody situation.”

Referring to the son’s lower grades, panelist Chad Stefanyak said that this likely is because of his transition from elementary to middle school. “The workload increases and gets more challenging. There is a shift from ‘I get to go home and do whatever I want.’” to ‘Now I have to do homework,’” Stefanyak said.

Panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo urged the parents to meet with their children’s teachers to determine if something else might have happened at school to account for the behavior changes. “This also will help open up communication lines,” she said.

Said Stefanyak, “We are glad to see you are working together. Whatever happened in the past, there is hope in your statement ‘As parents, we share similar values and expectations for our children … ’’’

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, former teacher and school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Michael Ramsey, MS, LPC, Program Supervisor, Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; and Denise Continenza, extension educator.

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The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.

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