I have always loved the start of a new school year and all the excitement, buzz, and positive energy that comes with it, with one exception. As a two-household family, I often got a bit more stressed making sure everyone connected and aligned with my daughter’s schedule, academics, after-school activities, and anticipated school-related expenses.
One thing so many of us divorced families have learned is that as co-parents, presenting a united front when managing your child’s school and extracurricular activity is critical to your child’s success during the school year. . Keeping disorganization and inter-parent conflicts to a minimum - which is not always easy - will reduce the chance of missed homework assignments, appointments, and pick-ups. Good organization and open communication also saves everyone involved, especially your child, a lot of unwanted stress and frustration.
This week, Divorcetown USA and Stephanie Robins, LCSW, Certified Collaborative Divorce Coach and Child Specialist, CoParenting Educator, Mediator, and Parenting Coordinator hosted a Back-to-School webinar for divorced families. I am excited to be sharing several great insights from the webinar along with many of my lessons learned that have really helped our whole divorced family over the years. Good luck as you get ready for that first-day school bell to ring.
1. Plan, reset goals, priorities, expectations, and boundaries
Talk with your co-parent about your child’s anticipated school year - academics, physical and/or mental health, use of electronics, involvement in extracurricular activities, and how you will each support your child.
As a united front, schedule a family meeting to discuss school year goals, priorities, activities, etc.
Ask the teacher(s) and guidance counselor if the school needs copies of the divorce agreement and/or parenting plan
2. Combine all calendars and schedules into one online family, school, and activities calendar
Decide which parent takes the lead in managing the custody management/family activities calendar. The person in charge should populate the calendar with all school-related key dates including:
Semester start and end dates
Project deadlines and exam dates
Vacation days and which parent has designated holidays with the kids
Field trip days
Important extracurricular events like sports games, concerts, plays, end-of-program celebrations
Permission, medical form deadlines
Use a co-parenting online and/or mobile app calendar that enables parents to give access to anyone transporting the kids to activities.
My go-to favorite is Our Family Wizard. In addition to a family calendar, features include a virtual journal, message board, shared expense tracker, and family information center to keep all key contact and emergency info.
For those trying to decide on a custody calendar, check out my blog post 6 Questions to Help Find You the Perfect Co-Parenting Custody Calendar System.
3. Open and Regular Communication is Critical
When communicating details with your ex, use text and/or emails. You will have less risk of letting emotions or negative feelings get in the way of communicating.
Keep communication brief and clear and set a response deadline if needed.
Let teachers, coaches, and tutors know about any dual household challenges that can impact your children’s participation or behavior.
If your child rides a bus, make sure the bus driver knows the day(s) your child will be riding the bus. If your child splits their week between two homes, make sure to communicate with both drivers.
Try to attend teacher-parent meetings together so no one is responsible for “reporting back”. Include or cc the other parent when communicating with teachers, guidance counselors, etc.
4. Keep similar routines when possible
As we all know, children love routine. With your co-parent, try creating similar school night routines such as before bed and lunch preparation. If this is not possible, focus on one or two things that can be implemented in both homes.
Share some successes you’re experiencing at your home. If playing outside for 30 minutes after school helps homework go smoother, share this win.
5. Make Tracking Expenses Easy and Stress-Free
If your parenting agreement does not include school-related expenses, try to discuss sharing these expenses with your co-parent and track them in an online shared system.
Consider getting a credit card solely for the use of shareable children's expenses. To learn more check out my post: How to Manage Child-Related Expenses with Your Ex.
Looking to get your divorced family life in order as you start the new school year? Reach out to us at Post Divorce Force and learn how we can help make that happen quickly, easily, and with a lot less stress.
Shari Herzberg, MBA
Post Divorce Force