It’s hard to believe that we’re talking about back to school season already. Looking back, it feels like summer just started yesterday – another few months gone by too fast. My husband and I are getting ready to send our youngest child back to high school in just a few short weeks. Our four older children have since graduated, so this is the last child we have going through K-12 education. The back to school routine has been part of our lives together for the past 12 years as we’ve co-parented our five children with two separate parenting agreements.
As I’m sure you can agree, this time of the year can be difficult for divorced parents and their children. I know this feeling all too well in a personal way as a mom and also in a professional way as a divorce mediation and collaborative family law attorney. Through my Charlotte-based law practice, ROAD to RESOLUTION, I offer co-parenting guidance to many clients and their families. I’ve attended trainings to extensively study co-parenting, also known as parallel parenting and shared parenting. Although, to be honest, a lot of my expertise is based on my unique personal experiences as a mother and stepmother. As a way to share guidance with you and your family, I’d like to offer 10 tips for K-12 co-parents ahead of the new school year.
1. Keep your focus on your child
First and foremost, let’s remember that the school year should be focused on your child and their education. Back to school discussions are not the time for you and your parenting partner to discuss other issues that don’t have to do with your child’s education. Keeping your child at the center of the conversations around their K-12 education is important for the betterment of their school year. Make sure to let them know that they have the equal support of you and their other parent as they head back to school.
2. Communicate often and with respect
As with any co-parenting relationship, it’s important to communicate frequently, while demonstrating respect. Even if you’re frustrated or irritated over a situation, remember that your child may be watching or listening to your conversations. I’m sure all co-parents can agree that even while some discussions are hard, it’s worth it to communicate respectfully toward one another.
3. Share your parenting information with the school
If your school doesn’t ask about your parenting situation or family life, take it upon yourself to share those details. Both parents’ names and contact information should be on your child’s school registration. When it comes to emergency contacts, consider adding stepparents and grandparents from both sides too. In addition, your child’s teachers should be aware of your parenting partnership and should contact both of you with any classroom updates.
4. Attend events with your parenting partner
Whether it’s teacher orientation night, a school play, or a big sporting event, you and your co-parent will probably both want to be there. That’s more than okay – in fact, it’s expected! You absolutely should both be there. It’s also a great idea to let your co-parent know about events when you find out about them so they can make plans to attend too. When it comes to one-on-one meetings like parent-teacher conferences, I can certainly understand that it may not be ideal to be in the same room. Just remember that your focus remains on your child and helping them succeed.
5. Coordinate schedules
This one is certainly easier said than done. Coordinating schedules and knowing who will be where at what time is a great practice to have when parenting any child. But for co-parents, it adds another layer of complexity and planning. I recommend using a shared calendar or co-parenting app to create a calendar that all parties, even your child, have access to at home and while on the go. Using technology for this is a great resource so updates can be made in real-time.
6. Figure out transportation
Similar to coordinating schedules, figuring out transportation can be a tough one when your school-aged child has two homes. If your child takes the bus, both co-parents will need to confirm with the school district that the child is registered at each bus stop. Some districts might even ask for a schedule so the bus driver knows when to expect the child at that bus stop. Of course, this could change if a co-parent drives the child and arranges to pick them up. You can also add transportation details to your shared calendar so everyone, including your child, is on the same page.
7. Assign tasks to each parent
Are you great with language arts while your ex excels at math? Or maybe your new partner is a history buff and your ex’s partner is a scientist. Work with the talents in your co-parenting family and not against them. Assigning tasks to each parent is a great way to make sure all parents, even stepparents, are included in your child’s education. You should also encourage your child to call their other parent or step-parent if they need help with homework in a subject of their expertise.
8.Create a parenting backpack
Just like your child has a backpack, co-parents might find one beneficial too. This backpack can alternate between homes with your child. This bag includes things that are related to your child that you may need as parents. Perhaps, letters from teachers, sign-and-return documents, school announcements, updated calendars, birthday party invitations, and more. This backpack will relieve pressure from your child since they won’t have to pass items back and forth from one parent to the other.
9, Plan out back to school shopping
Back to school shopping should be a dual responsibly for co-parents. I know first-hand how those costs can add up. This is especially true with last year’s full-remote learning and purchasing laptops, tablets, and other digital learning devices. There are several ways to do this, so it’s important to pick the method that works best for your family. You might want to work together to set a budget and then split the costs when one parent handles all the shopping. Or, maybe you’d rather make separate shopping lists so you can both shop with your child. There is no right or wrong answer as long as both parents agree to it.
10. Give grace when needed
I’m sure most of us can agree that flexibility is essential when co-parenting. Many situations are out of our control, including school days and extracurricular schedules that might change. If your co-parent asks for help or requests an adjustment due to an unforeseen circumstance, give them grace. I’m sure that you’d want the same grace granted to you if situations were reversed.
From all of us here at ROAD to RESOLUTION, we wish you and your children a happy and safe school year!
We’re Here to Help
The ROAD to RESOLUTION team can provide co-parenting guidance before, during, and after divorce. Please give us a call at (980) 260-1600 and we can discuss your legal options through divorce mediation and collaborative family law. Our Charlotte-based team is here to help you and your family.
The ROAD to RESOLUTION Divorce Blog can help you differentiate the fact from the fiction, and guide you towards the support you need during this difficult time. Use our resources and services to find all the info you need—from pre-divorce education to drafting essential legal documents. Please contact us today to find out more about how we can help you.
Note: This blog is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.