Helping Children Cope with Returning to Work after Divorce?

This is part 4 of a series of posts by Sandra Russell on how to get back to work after divorce.  You can read part 1 – Why Stay-At-Home Parents Are Advised To Go Back To Work After Divorce and part 2 here – How To Find Your Preferred Working Pattern and part 3 – Where to look for the Type of Work you Want

Sandra Russell Heads of Graysons’ Family Team

Sandra Russell
Head of
Graysons’ Family Team


Divorce is already a time of huge upheaval for your children, one that requires its own unique protective strategies.

The impact will depend on their age and level of understanding.

Adding to this your return to work – particularly if you’ve been the main caregiver – and you will need some tactics in place to mitigate the extra effects and maintain stability for them.

Think about drafting up a parenting plan so that you and your ex can help your kids feel more secure and confident.

We take some common pain points for divorced and newly-working parents and suggest workarounds:

The School Run:

  • Always make sure your children know who is picking them up and when, especially when your ex is involved. Make a rota and stick to it.
  • Consider asking your employer for a start time to fit around the morning drop-off. It’s the more rigid timing of the two runs, since afterschool clubs can always accommodate your work-related absence later in the day.
  • Co-ordinate with other local parents: can they pick up your kids on set days, in exchange for you babysitting or hosting playdates on your free days?

returning to work after divorceMealtimes:

  • Always batch cook and freeze ahead. Your kids’ mental health may suffer during your divorce – so their appetites may be affected. Fall back on fail-safe favourites (as long as they’re healthy) that you know they’ll eat, and make double or triple the quantity for days when you’re out working and don’t have time to cook it fresh.
  • Plan your meals and agree a rota with your ex. This ensures your children get a varied, healthy diet, no matter which parent they’re with. It also cuts down on ‘what shall we eat’ panics: if you know what you’re cooking and when, you can always stock for the right ingredients. This reduces the chance of emergency unhealthy takeaways.
  • Consider a delivery service. There are plenty of companies running services to deliver fresh, healthy meals, or the exact ingredients to cook them up.
  • Do your grocery shopping online, and get it delivered. Now you’re back at work, do you have a spare couple of hours to run around the supermarket, solo, with your kids? Cut out the stress, order your shop online in your lunch break and get it delivered for a time that suits you.

Other activities:

  • Similar to the school run, co-ordinate responsibility for out of school activities with your ex. Make sure your children can carry on doing all the clubs and sports they did before both your divorce and your return to work. This will give them consistency throughout this transitional period.
  • Routine is good – but you can still do surprises. If you’re sharing residency or just contact with your ex, a new job can give you another life outside of caregiving. Surprisingly, work can be a welcome break for many divorced parents. Use the change in pace to bring the best version of your parenting self and throw in the odd spontaneous treat.

What to Consider if you have Pre-school Children

Divorce and pre-school kids: that’s a stressful situation! This is one of the most intense and difficult periods of childhood – for them and for you.

Add in the logistics of either sharing access or solo parenting plus a return to work, and it’s a perfect storm.

Depending on the age of your pre-schooler, you’ll need to consider childcare options when you return to work. If you’re working freelance at home, will you have them at home or have them looked after by family, nursery or a childminder?

Can your ex take them? If you’re working outside the home, who will look after them, and can you afford the fees?

Remember that in England, you currently get 15 hours free childcare a week per child from the term after they turn 3. The Government plans to extend this to 30 hours, but it won’t hit many areas until 2017 (unless you live in one of the pilot areas, where the increased hours may be available in 2016).

What to consider if you have school-age children

Returning to work when your kids are at school means two things: the school run, and time to work while they’re not there: a double-edged sword.

It’s a good idea to investigate after-school clubs and what other working parents do at your school. Can you take turns for after-school care? Can family or your ex help with either the school run or after-school care?

Sandra heads Graysons’ family team.  She qualified as a solicitor in April 1994, having obtained her law degree at Sheffield University. She has specialised exclusively in family law ever since.

She is personally recommended in the Legal 500 2015 as being ‘committed, focused and confident’.

Sandra became a Resolution accredited specialist in January 2000 and qualified as a collaborative family lawyer in April 2009.  Her accredited areas are advanced complex financial and property matters and domestic abuse.

Sandra is passionate about helping couples to resolve their disputes in a non-adversarial, respectful manner; focusing on the needs of their children and re-enforcing the importance of conflict avoidance.  She finds collaborative work particularly rewarding in guiding clients through their individual separation journeys so they can look towards a brighter future.

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