Speaking from experience as a noncustodial father, I know the importance of our involvement in our children’s education, as well as the challenges that may ensue. From one dad to another, this is my advice for noncustodial fathers for staying involved in our children’s schooling.
Decades’ worth of research has proven that when fathers are involved in their children’s education, the children perform better overall in multiple areas of development. This even applies when a father does not live in the same home as his children. Here’s how to accomplish that for your family.
Have the right paperwork.
A birth certificate is usually enough, as long as there are no legalities that would prohibit your participation at school. But if you are not on the birth certificate, seek to get an affidavit of parentage or some other proof of parentage, like records of child support payments or DNA test results.
Let the school know who you are.
Depending on your relationship with Mom, you may have to reach out to the school to let the faculty and staff know you exist. I’ve seen many fathers who don’t live with their kids left off of the school application and emergency contact card.
Use the court order.
If the current custody order states you have the right to be involved in your child’s schooling, don’t hesitate to use it. And if adjustments need to be made, seek mediation with Mom first (this is usually free) and have the order updated. When that is not possible, consider filing a motion to have it changed.
Use your time wisely.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “when noncustodial fathers are highly involved with their children’s learning, the children are more likely to get A’s at all grade levels.” Time with your kids may be limited, but you can work their education in, too. Get creative! Whatever helps them to grow and spend quality time with their dad is a plus. If distance is a factor, keep encouraging your kids in their schoolwork every time you talk with them.
Go around if necessary.
Yes, peace with Mom should be a primary goal, but it may not always be possible. It can be frustrating and redundant to have to repeat steps year after year. So do your own homework and get on the school’s website or email the teacher directly to learn more information and stay updated. You can even do this if you live in a separate city or state. Schools love having dads who are involved.
Volunteer at the school.
Want to be promoted instantly to rockstar status? Volunteer in your child’s school for a day. Not only does this build great memories with your child, but you also positively impact other kids who may not have a strong father figure at home. And want to reach more families and have fun along the way? Then consider joining or leading an All Pro Dad chapter at your child’s school.
Be at conferences.
Plan to attend parent-teacher conferences. That is your chance to hear directly from the teacher about your child’s progress and needs for improvement. If you cannot make conferences, set up your own meetings via phone or on another day to get filled in.
Be at events.
It’s powerful for children to scan the crowd from the stage at a school performance and see their dad in the audience. Do everything in your ability to attend your child’s events because your presence will create memories you both can hold on to forever.
The research backs this all up, but the experience is hard to put into words. Big or small, I encourage you to take the steps necessary to stay active in your children’s education. When you do, everyone wins: you, the school, and most importantly, your children.
Sound off: What’s your best advice for noncustodial fathers?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you like best about school? Why?”