The Autumn foliage will soon arrive which means the school bus is already en route. Fall is here. Transitioning from the laid back and meandering days of summer to the structured days of a new academic school year can be tough for any school-aged child. Back to school is made even more complex and challenging when co-parenting is involved. These easy to follow tips will make the move from sleepy summer days to jam-packed school days as stress-free as possible.
Coordination and Cooperation
In order to ensure a smooth transition into the school year for your child, it is critical that co-parents communicate, coordinate, and cooperate early and often. To avoid the pitfalls of co-parent conflict and a stressful homelife, keep in mind the following recommendations:
- Structure and consistency are key. Work together with your co-parent to develop a plan to cover lunches, school drop off, pick up, extra-curricular, school projects and after school activities. Communicate the plan and stick to it. Agree to “stick to the script” to avoid any miscommunication.
- Use apps and technology. There are so many applications that have been developed with co-parents in mind. Use these to limit human error and keep track of schedules. At the very least, use a shared calendar so that everyone knows what the custodial schedule is and which parent is responsible for what task, project or transportation on a given school day.
- Keep track of your child’s day-to-day experience at school. Plan to spend some time every day after school to check in with your children regarding their school day and homework. The other parent should do the same on his or her watch. Show your children that you are both interested and invested in their school day and work. Set boundaries regarding schoolwork and bedtime. Assign a designated homework time and try your best to enforce it.
- Share back to school shopping duties. This can be an expensive time of year. Summers seem to produce growth spurts. Kids need new clothes, shoes, backpacks, and a multitude of supplies, not to mention electronic devices. Both parents should be aware of the items which need to be acquired and share the shopping duties (but most of all – the expense). Do not treat what your other parent is purchasing as “extra”. Attempt to limit parallel, duplicative spending for back to school related supplies and attire.
- Attend important school events together (if possible). Most schools host “meet the teacher” night or hold open houses in the school rooms. If possible, both parents should attend. It shows your child that you can set personal differences aside to be there for them. It will also help ensure that neither parent is left out of school communication or other important classroom information. The teacher is also more likely to bond with both parents and feel less triangulated if an issue arises for your child during the school year. It is also key to list both parents’ names on all school forms and permissions.
Co-parenting is a two-way street, and you can only be responsible for your own actions and responses. If you feel like you are being left out, it is critical that you do not step back and disengage. No. If you have concerns about your child’s best interests not being met, you may want to talk to an experienced family law attorney or seasoned co-parent mediator. If you would like to learn more about your rights and legal options, contact us to find out how we may be able to advise you or help you with your circumstances.