Back to School & Co-Parenting

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Back to school – the real new year begins.  Often, for parents, it is a bittersweet time.  We are saying goodbye to the more carefree days of summer but also secretly yearning for the structure and routine that September can bring.

There is a lot to do and a lot to navigate when it comes to your children and school.  For parents who are separated or divorced there can be an added layer of complexity to the situation.

Everything from transferring backpacks, sports equipment and science projects back and forth between two homes to what to do when it’s time to schedule “meet the teacher night” can be a source for tension and disagreements.

So, how can you make this big transition smoother for everyone involved?  Here are some tips to help get you and your children back to school with confidence.

1.     Use a co-parenting app.  Communication is usually the biggest challenge for parents who are separated or divorced.  A co-parenting app allows you to communicate about all things kid-related while minimizing the chances for miscommunication or lack of communication.  One of the best features is a shared calendar.  Everyone can be on the same page for homework, activities and events. 

2.     Bring your child’s teacher into the loop.  Let your child’s teacher know the situation and communicate with them when your child is going through difficult.  Don’t misconstrue this as an opportunity to speak ill of your ex with the teacher.  Keep the conversation about your child and how their teacher can best support them.

3.     Show up.  If your child is participating in a soccer game or the school play, be there, even if you have to sit at opposite sides of the auditorium.  Your child will remember that you showed up for the important events in their life.  And when you’re young it’s ALL important. 

4.     Stay informed.  Make sure your school has both of you on their newsletter list.  Ask for two copies of report cards.  Ask the teacher to cc you both on any emails.  When you were together one or the other of you probably took the lead in this department.  Now that you are separated be proactive and rely on yourself to make sure you know what’s going on in your child’s life.

5.     Contribute.  Whether it’s paying your share of the back to school supplies or helping to make the dreaded erupting volcano science project, do your part.  Your child is noticing your contributions to their life.  Time and engagement is the most valuable contribution you can make. 

6.     Revisit your co-parenting separation agreement.  This will continue to guide you in times of conflict.  As your children get older be sure to amend your agreement to address the changes taking place in your life and theirs.

As much as your children are learning in school they are also learning from you as their role models.  Take this opportunity to show them just how grown up you can be.   

Author - Lori Frank