Back-to-school season can be stressful. But it’s not just kids who are stressed—parents can feel it too. And if you’re divorced or separated from your child’s mom or dad, co-parenting during back-to-school time can be even more challenging than usual.
With the new school year starting, how can you make sure you’re on the same page with your ex to ensure your child will get the best education possible? Childhood, mental-health and other experts say it’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your co-parent, specifically when it comes to raising a child together. But don’t worry—that doesn’t necessarily mean having to talk to your ex directly. (After all, you have enough stress to deal with!)
According to Psychology Today, an open dialogue with your ex can be through email, texting, voicemail, and yes, even face-to-face contact. Don’t ignore the benefits of information-sharing online platforms, too. There are websites where you can upload schedules, share information and communicate so you can keep the direct contact with your ex to a minimum.
Michelle Dempsey-Multack, a divorce coach and author of Moms Moving On: Real Life Advice of Conquering Divorce, Co-Parenting Through Conflict, and Becoming Your Best Self, underscored the benefits of using online technology when it comes to co-parenting during the school year.
“The best way to get on the same page with your co-parent for the new school year, especially if you communicate infrequently, is by creating a shared calendar,” Dempsey-Multack said. “I have found that clients who create a shared calendar, clearly marked with the timesharing schedule, school holidays, after-school activities, etc, have a lot less to discuss, or potentially argue over.”
Co-Parenting During Back-to-School Time
Dempsey-Multack shared some more tips to help ease the stresses of being a co-parent during back-to-school time. Of course, every co-parenting plan is different, but these are some tips to keep in mind to help make your co-parenting experience a positive one.
School scheduling, extracurricular activities and co-parenting time
It’s important to remember that when it comes to school scheduling and extracurricular activities, it’s your child’s best interests that matter more than what’s fair for each parent. For example, if a co-parent wants to avoid sending the child to their activity because it “infringes on their time,” they could be in violation of their parenting plan agreement—specifically one that was decided in court.
“In my experience, it is best to communicate regarding the change of schedule with the other parent beforehand, because having to beg for forgiveness after your co-parent realizes they were left in the dark regarding any changes in schedule, could result in an expensive trip back to court,” Dempsey Multack said.
Scheduling both school and sporting events with your co-parent
True “co-parenting” would mean that both parents would be in attendance at all of their child’s school and sporting events. Often, that’s not even possible for parents to do when they are still together. Additionally, many moms and dads who are new to the co-parenting world are not yet comfortable spending time around their ex-spouse just yet.
“Don’t beat yourself up if you’re not jumping for joy at the idea of having to sit side-by-side with your co-parent. Children can sense when these interactions make you tense, nervous, or anxious,” Dempsey-Multack said. “My suggestion is to come together for the milestone events, like major games, school plays, graduations, etc. Take turns hanging around at practice/rehearsal if the vibe between you and your ex is more hostile than friendly.”
Information that is (and isn’t) important to share with your co-parent
A parenting plan decided upon in court will clearly state how you and your ex-partner should relay information regarding your child’s academic life, Dempsey-Multack said. But there’s more to consider.
“Regardless of your parenting plan, it is my opinion that including your child’s other parent in any important school-related communication is the safest way to play it,” she said. “And most importantly, it’s the best thing you can do for your children. Having two parents who are aware of what’s happening in school, which days require certain uniforms, when to send in an item for show-and-tell, when picture day is, will only benefit the child in the long run.”
Also, keep in mind: You want to loop your co-parent in on the ins and outs of your child’s life, but you don’t have to go overboard.
“Don’t forget that you’re entitled to your own personal and private life with your children, so long as you’re communicating what your parenting plan asks you to communicate,” Dempsey-Multack said.
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