Transitions are always difficult for divorced families. And the start of a new school year is no exception. There are many details to handle, and for parents (especially for those who have separated or divorced over the summer), the stress and confusion is even greater.
Family attorney Michael Ian Bender served for many years as a Judge for Chicago’s Circuit Court of Cook County in the domestic relations division. Back in private practice, he’s received numerous queries concerning “back-to-school” co-parenting challenges.
“Developing a solid co-parenting plan for the school year is an absolute must,” says Bender. “Both parents and children need to be on the same page and know what to expect to avoid unnecessary conflict and anxiety.”
With this in mind, Bender has developed an essential back to school “To Do” list for co-parents.
Update the School
Take time before school starts to reach out to the school and explain the family situation. Make yourself available to answer any questions they may have and let your children know that the teachers and school administrators are aware.
Start an Online Shared Calendar
There are many activities that occur within the school year and it’s hard for everyone to keep up and stay organized. A shared calendar can be a perfect solution, so both parents (and children, if age appropriate) know the schedule and can plan accordingly.
Arrange for Duplicate Notifications
Although information should always be shared between the parents, it helps to arrange for separate, duplicate notifications about academic progress and school activities, so one parent is not responsible for copying and sending information to the other.
Review and Split the Supply List
There’s no need for both parents to run out and start buying school supplies. Review the list and agree to split it up so the children can accompany one parent for the first 10 items, and go with the other parent for the remaining 10.
Drop the Kids Off Together
The first day of school can be a scary, overwhelming experience for even the most confident of kids. If at all possible, both parents should free up their schedules to be there together and show their support. If you can’t be there together, take a photo and send it to the ex.
Keep Consistent House Rules
When the children are splitting their time between both parents’ homes, it’s important for the “house rules” to be consistent at both residences, especially during the school year. If bedtime on school nights is 8:00 pm at one parent’s home, then it must be the same at the ex’s.
Attend Parent-Teacher Conferences Together
While this may be difficult, it’s so important to attend parent-teacher conferences as a team. It sends a strong message to the children that no matter what happened in the past, today you are united and have your child’s best interest at heart.
Here’s to making the school year a success for everyone involved! Get more Back to School tips HERE.