An estimated 60 million kids are heading back to school this fall. It is a time fraught with emotions for both parents and children. If you are newly divorced, there could be additional challenges. Divorced parents often struggle with co-parenting, especially at the beginning of a new school year.
How can you make the school year easier for you, your children and your ex? Follow these six essential tips to make “back to school” a smooth experience for co-parents and children.
1. Establish a routine
The “unknown” can be the most intimidating and frightening aspect of life after divorce. Kids crave stability and consistency and having a set routine can facilitate a sense of security, as well as, help develop self-discipline. If parents are sharing custody during the school week, it is important to discuss and standardize times for homework and bedtime.
2. Coordinate events
Plan in advance to be at school events. If you both attend, make every effort to maintain decorum and civility. If that is unrealistic, coordinate your attendance so that your time together is limited. Consult with teachers beforehand to make sure they are willing and able to meet with you individually.
3. Share information
Hoarding information or creating obstacles for each other is not fair to the children. It is the custodial parent’s obligation, usually, to issue permission to the school, teachers, and medical professionals to allow communication with the non-custodial parent. Both parents should make certain that the contact information is current and remains so during the school year. Reach out to the school if, at any time, you feel you may be lacking information. It is not uncommon for school personnel to offer duplicate notifications. This service ensures that the flow of information does not falter due to lack of communication by co-parents.
4. Deal with school expenses up front
Decide who is responsible for shopping and other school related expenses. Make a shopping list of school supply and wardrobe needs. Make certain to discuss one-time fees, such as those for sports, art or music. Be honest about the needs of the child and your abilities to provide.
5. Plan projects
Kids may have certain projects they need their moms to help with yet others for which their dad is more suited; be prepared to alternate accordingly. Share due dates, requirements, as well as, your expectations. Better communication means fewer last minute surprises. Be diligent in allocating the extra time needed to complete the project. It is your child who suffers if you wait until the last minute or withhold details from the helping parent.
6. Share concerns
If you see that your child is struggling in any aspect of school or life, waste no time sharing this information with your ex. School should be a place for children to learn, have fun and excel. Sometimes it isn’t easy to forget about the issues at home. By noticing changes in behavior and intervening early, developmental problems may be avoidable.
Relationships between exes are dynamic. From time-to-time, you may experience the joys of co-parenting perhaps followed by nearly nonexistent communication. The most important thing to remember is always to act in the best interest of your child. That is behavior that earns an A-Plus every time.