Co-Parenting Tips When Kids Return to School
As summer starts to wind down, many divorced parents are beginning to prepare for the start of a new school year. A return to school schedules and responsibilities can result in added stress for many co-parents.
To help make back to school time go smoothly, and to create a successful school year for the whole family, family experts offer the following suggestions:
Make Communication a Priority
It is important that parents communicate with children all the upcoming changes so they know exactly what to expect:
- Before school starts, tell children about any new changes: Children should be informed about changes the new school year will bring regarding living arrangements, visitation schedules, and extracurricular activities. Communicating this information together as a united front can be especially helpful in reinforcing to the children that everyone is on the same page about the changes.
- Throughout the school year, co-parents should keep each other informed about school issues: This can include communicating about test grades, lunch menus, and other information provided by the school. Obtaining multiple copies of schedules and school mailings can help maintain this vital communication between co-parents.
- Remain in communication with your child's teachers: In certain cases, it also may be important to communicate directly with your child’s teacher about specific issues which affect your child’s learning, including behavioral problems, emotional difficulties, and other learning issues. It is important for both parents to agree on what information should be disclosed to the teacher or school.
Prepare Your Routines, School Supplies & Other School Issues
Communication is just one way to prepare the children for upcoming school changes. Parents should also make preparations in many other areas in anticipation of the new school year, such as:
- School supply shopping: Both parents should be involved in the physical preparations necessary for the start of the school year, such as back to school shopping for clothes, uniforms, or school supplies.
- Agree on costs: Offering to split the costs of school supplies, regardless of predetermined child support obligations, is a great opportunity to establish goodwill with your ex-spouse.
- Create a routine: Establishing a regular routine also will help make back to school changes go smoother. Work together to create a plan for school transportation, extracurricular activities, inclement weather, and emergency situations. Begin to adjust your child’s bedtime and meal times as the summer comes to an end, to set them up for a successful first week of school.
Involve Both Parents in School Events & Activities
Children need to feel support from both parents during the transition back to school. If both parents coordinate and cooperate properly, it is possible for both parents to be present at school activities such as the first day of school drop off, meet the teacher night, science fairs, or school concerts.
If there is a no contact order in place, or you are in a high-conflict relationship with your ex-spouse, these issues need to be addressed before the start of the school year to allow both parents to attend important school events.
Coordinate School Responsibilities with a Shared Calendar
If both parents have made communication a priority, the coordination of school responsibilities naturally follows.
Coordination includes helping each other remember the many responsibilities that arise during the school year, such as bringing the correct sports equipment to practice, encouraging a child to practice their musical instrument, and finishing homework and classroom assignments.
Creating a shared calendar of important school year dates can help the entire family be involved in the child’s education, such as:
- Parent-teacher conferences
- Field trips
- Assignment due dates
- Sports events
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