Now that the kids are back to school and you have read Back to School Tips for Divorcing Parents, it is time to co-parent during the school year. Through the years of representing parents in custody cases, I have seen many issues arise between parents and I have seen parents find practical solutions for those problems.
I highly encourage parents to find practical solutions when it comes to co-parenting during the school year. Otherwise, you will be in and out of court seeking piecemeal band-aid solutions from a third party and, in the meantime, your child will suffer. The goal is making school go smoothly for your child.
Here are my tips:
- Familiarize yourself with the electronic communication options with the school. Nowadays, many school districts have online portals with your child’s information. Request two separate logins. If only one login is permitted, share the password with the other parent so you both can receive the information directly. It is better to have equal access than to be responsible for communicating the information directly. This was the other parent is responsible for getting their own information and cannot accuse you of withholding information.
- Let the teacher know to use both parent’s email addresses when sending out announcements or emails about any concerns they have about your child. Copy the other parent on your communications back to the teacher. I am sure you would likewise want to be copied.
- Let the other parent know when your child is home sick and whether any make-up work needs to be coordinated.
- Try to attend parent-teacher conferences together. I understand that sometimes this is not possible because the parents cannot get along well enough to be in the same room and the conference will not be productive. However, if you can, attend the conference together so that both parents can be on the same page and can hear the teacher’s response to each of the parent’s concerns.
- Use a shared calendar. It can be a google calendar, through Our Family Wizard or any other calendar that works for you. Through the shared calendar you can share information about extracurricular activities and school project deadlines. If you do not have the same weekdays each week you can mark when sneakers are needed for gym class and what day their library book needs to be returned.
- Discuss school projects and who is going to take the lead on what part of the project. I hear all the time about the lack of coordination and the stress on the child. I recall a situation when a child was returned to her parent on Sunday night with a book report due on Monday. The parent dropped the child off without the book and with the report not done and told the other parent to go buy their own copy. The child suffered the most in this situation.
- Be proactive. If you see a slip in grades or any other changes in your child that you think may be associated with the situation at home, talk to the school guidance counselor and consider counseling for the child and/or co-parenting counseling for the parents.
- Take your ego out of it. This is not about you, it is about your child.
It is challenging enough to make sure your children is organized and ready for school when the family is intact. Divorce usually makes it harder. Communication mechanisms are key and hopefully these tips can help too.