Shared Parenting During the School Year: Tips for Success
With three school-age children, I'll be honest. I dread the beginning-of-the-school-year paperwork. There is so much new information coming at me and lots to remember - not to mention the mountain of forms I always spend the first few days of the school year filling out. If you are sharing parenting responsibilities with your Ex, it takes teamwork for a smooth transition into the new year. Here are some tips for success.
Have a plan for shared parenting during the school year
Work with your co-parent to create a transition plan from the summer schedule to the routine for the school year. In our house, we let the kids stay up a little later and sleep in a little later during the summer. About a week before school starts, we start returning the kids to their normal school sleep schedule. That way, they are well-rested for the first day of school. It's a simple thing but it makes our mornings before school go much smoother.
If possible, I recommend sitting down face-to-face with your Ex to go over the schedule and communication plans for the upcoming school year. Doing this prior to the school year will help make sure everyone starts the year with a solid plan in place. You may find it to be helpful to do this again shortly after the school year begins since the schools send so much information home in the first few days.
Get organized for shared parenting during the school year
Set your kids up for success by making sure they have all the supplies that they will need at both homes to complete their homework and any school projects.
Parents are bombarded with flyers and calendars and other important information during the first week of school. Make sure both parents get copies of all important dates and procedures. This year, I've decided that I'm going to make a binder with a section for each of my kids. In it, I will have all of their school and teacher contact information, calendars, and anything else I want to be able to refer back to during the year. I'm making a binder so that I'll have one place where I keep everything so I know exactly where to find it. It will also make it easy to share it with my Ex.
Help your child get organized
Your child does need to take some responsibility for making sure that they have their stuff where they need it to be. For example, if they know they have a soccer game coming up, they should have their gear ready to go regardless of whose house they are staying at. Most kids do need some help in this department, though.
If you know that your child will need certain items on certain days of the week, make a schedule and post it somewhere that's visible. That way, when it's the day for flute lessons they won't be without their flute.
Create a shared calendar
Kids and parents have a lot going on. Create a shared calendar that everyone can view. It's a simple way to limit miscommunication when it comes to dates/times. It's easy enough to create a free Google calendar. Our Family Wizard is also a very helpful shared parenting communication app with a built-in calendar. I personally, use Cozi for our family calendar.
Discuss and share necessary expenses
With the new school year often comes a number of expenses. Of course, there are school supplies but there may also be fees for extracurricular activities and other costs. Have a plan for how these expenses will be shared so there aren't any surprises.
Co-attend open house, conferences, and other important events
Remain in the know by attending open houses, parent conferences, and other important school and activity-related events. When both parents attend, both end up with the same information and can more easily communicate about upcoming projects, events, and school assignments.
This is especially important at the beginning of the school year. New teachers, activity leaders, and other professionals your children will interact with should have the opportunity to meet and communicate with both parents. When you opt-out of an event, it makes it harder to forge that relationship in the future.
Be proactive about schoolwork
Schoolwork can be a major frustration for parents and children alike. Make a plan ahead of time as to how you and your co-parent will address schoolwork. Ideally, children should have a similar afternoon schedule each day of the week and time for schoolwork.
Additionally, your children should have a place to put their homework and school supplies after they are finished to make sure that everything necessary makes it back to school the following day. Work together with your co-parent and determine how you will maintain consistency in both homes.
Share the good news and the bad
Of course, everyone wants to celebrate when your child makes the honor roll or wins the spelling bee, but it's just as important for co-parents to talk about the things that aren't going well. Any communication from school should be shared immediately with the other parent so that they can make a choice as to whether to schedule a meeting with school educators. Ideally, you'll both be on the same team and will be able to attend those meetings together if necessary.
Determine ahead of time as to how you will communicate those issues and what the consequences will be for children if necessary. If both parents are on the same page, there shouldn't be any guesswork when the time comes to deal with a situation that didn't work out the way you intended it to.
Seek mediation if you need help with shared parenting during the school year
The school year can be tough on intact families. When you add in the scheduling issues that co-parents have to deal with, shared parenting during the school year can be difficult. It doesn't have to be, though. If you are having trouble getting on the same page, mediation is a great way to problem solve and to create a plan for ongoing communication.
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