It’s common for parents to relish the back-to-school season while children may dread it. However, there are some adults for whom the return to school inspires stress, rather than an increase in free time.
Those who have divorced or separated and who now co-parent their children may find that the return to school is more challenging than it was in years prior. Careful preparation ahead of time can decrease conflict between parents and pave the way for a smooth transition from summer vacation into the school year. These are some of the ways that co-parents can better prepare for the resumption of academic instruction in the fall.
Discussing the school year schedule
Each year that the children return to school will see different obligations for the family. Maybe in 5th grade, the children will start participating in sports. In high school, there may be clubs and part-time jobs to consider. Those academic and extracurricular activities can impact how the parents share custody. It is important to have rules in place for makeup parenting time when someone loses an opportunity because of school obligations, and it is equally important to ensure that the parents have discussed who will pick up the children if they end up sick or sent home for disciplinary measures during the school year.
Reviewing family rules
Many households embrace an earlier curfew during the school year than they enforce during the summer months. There may be different rules for electronic use while school is in session, as well as different expectations regarding socialization with friends. Going over the rules that the parents want enforced at both households before school resumes can help ensure consistent reinforcement at both homes so that there is less backlash from the children and conflict between the parents.
Planning for upcoming expenses
Sports, class trips and high school dances can cost hundreds of dollars, and children shouldn’t have to give up the opportunities that their peers enjoy because their parents live separately. Child support is frequently far too low to even cover basic cost of living expenses, so parents may need to address how they will handle additional expenses that the children will likely incur throughout the school year to share them and give their children the best opportunities in life.
Adults who take the time to discuss common issues that arise throughout the school year before the kids are back in class can potentially reduce the friction in their co-parenting relationship and the likelihood of a protracted dispute that forces them back to court. Working cooperatively with a co-parent is often the best option for those who share custody of minor children, when doing so is possible and in the best interests of their kids.