The new school year is upon us, and it is time to get the kids ready to return to school. For families who co-parent, this may mean reverting to a “school schedule” for parenting time. This also means preparing your child for a new grade, new teacher, and possibly a new school. It’s important for your children to feel supported by both parents as they transition into a new routine. Here are some tips to make returning to school as smooth and successful as possible.
- Talk to your ex. It’s important to make sure you and your co-parent are on the same page when it comes to your child’s education. Putting aside your differences and focusing on your child first is essential. Being able to communicate with your co-parent and agree to expectations, extracurricular activities and school events will benefit your child.
- Talk to your children. Find out what they are excited about for school, and what they are nervous about. Keep them informed of their schedule with you and their other parent. It’s also a great time to talk about extracurricular activities. Giving your children some choices will make them feel heard and empowered.
- Go to school! If possible, try to attend back-to-school events with your child and with your ex. This will show your child that you both support him or her.
- Talk to teachers. Speak with your child’s teacher to discuss his or her needs and the teacher’s expectations. When you speak with the teacher, do say that you are divorced, and that you both want information and communications with the teacher and the school. Ask what makes it easiest for the teacher. Do NOT explain how horrible your ex is, or how he/she never participates etc.
- Attend events. Coordinate with your ex so that you can both attend school events and your child’s activities. If you cannot support your child at the same time, take turns attending extracurricular practices or games.
- Create a calendar. Work with you child and your ex to create a calendar or schedule of events, parenting time, and days off from school. Communication websites like Ourfamilywizard.com offer a calendar that both parents can see and add to, and even add their children to view. Or create a free one with Google Calendar. This keeps everyone on the same page.
- Go shopping! Shopping for school supplies is a job for both parents, and can be fun for your child. Communicate with your co-parent to divide the shopping lists.
- Make sure your child’s medical status is up-to-date. Work with your co-parent to get your child the proper physical for sports and any vaccinations required by the school for attendance.
- Be flexible. As your child ages and develops, his or her priorities for school, sports, activities and friends change too. This may mean that your child stays afterschool for band practice, or has weekly football games that occur during your parenting time. Support these activities, they are great for your children.
- Keep informed. It is not up to your ex or your child to tell you about school events. Contact the school, download their calendar and communicate with your child’s teachers and coaches. Many schools now have online-access and school “portals” so that parents and students can keep informed, and many teachers are accessible via email.
The most important goal in preparing your child to go back to school is to be there for your child. It means communicating and coordinating with your ex, and sometimes “agreeing to disagree”. Remember to put your children’s needs first and act in their best interests.