Back to school is here, which means doing the coparenting and school dance that can be oh so tricky. You know, how your ex finds out about a major project homework assignment yet somehow you didn't? Not out of maliciousness, but due to poor communication or perhaps out of maliciousness (but I sure hope not!) If your child is going back and forth between two homes like many divorced kids today, school work can be tricky. Manage the school year and keep the flow of communication open between you, your ex, and the school with a few tips!
Teachers and the school should be aware of what your child's week looks like. If they understand that your little one is with dad every Tuesday or Thursday, this can help them determine the right person to contact first (we'll discuss this in a bit) with any issues. Additionally, if teachers notice that your child is always cranky/difficult/late with homework after being with you or dad, he or she will be able to figure out how and who to address the problem to if a pattern is erupting.
Don't forget to give your child a calendar with his or her schedule as well. If junior's a little one, a color-coded calendar with all of Dad's days colored in green and Mom's colored in red will get the point across in a developmentally appropriate way.
Bonus Custody Point
If your child is just entering elementary school OR if the custody schedule has been tricky to pin down or remember, it's time to change things up. Kids need predictability and if your little one is just starting elementary school, many things will be different: more work, more structure, and more expectations. Preschool was an easier way of life and a time to be more flexible with a custody arrangement but elementary school is another ball game. Make it easy for the kids.
Both Parties Should Be Contacted
Express to administration and teachers right at the start of the school year that both parents shall receive communication from the school at all times. Yes, divorces can be amicable and friendly. My ex and I are very amicable but still, it's a pain when the school sends him something and not me. I find it aggravating and so does he. Now consider the fact that many people do not divorce amicably.
Schools? Send communication to both parents and call both when issues and emergencies arise. In the case of issues and emergency phone calls, call the parent who is scheduled for custody or the emergency contact first and the other parent second.
I hope that coparents are communicating openly, but I know it doesn't always happen and this is why schools need to notify both parties.
No two homes are the same and they never will be. But you and your ex can try to get some set routines down that mirror each other and if that's impossible, at least have a set routine at your own home.
Those three areas would be the most important routines to nail down during the school year. If you and Dad do things a completely different way, try to at least agree to the same bedtime and the same expectations for homework (i.e., do your homework before going outside to play or texting friends or having a set time for play with the expectation that homework follows shortly after).
Predictability and routine are good for kids. You can't expect that your ex will run the house like you do, but you two can attempt to agree to certain bylaws that will make for a smooth school year.
Have an emergency plan between you and your ex for if something happens when the kids are at school. Consider:
- Who should be called first
- Who should be called second
- If you need grandparents or a babysitter to come to get your child
- Any additional people you can rely on
- Whose house the child should be brought to
Before the school year becomes hectic, let the teacher know about your child's particular situation. Address with him or her how you would like school matters to be addressed and share with the teacher any concerns you may have about the divorce impacting your child in school, if any at all.
Friends and Socialization
If there's a child or group of kids you don't want your child interacting with this school year, you and your ex need to be on the same page about this. It's possible you two may not agree, but if you can come up with some sort of agreement that leaves both parties feeling comfortable that's key. You don't want your kid hanging out with the "bad kid" on your ex's custody time and if that does happen, you may not have much control as hard as that is to accept unless the child is endangering yours — and you can document it.
Homework and Project Duties
Is your ex a math whiz? Are you the math whiz? Discuss before the year gets in full swing how you might handle tricky homework scenarios. Will you have your ex stop by? Will you two work together on major classroom projects with your kid? Can you Skype/FaceTime help your kid and ex with the homework?
Furthermore, how do you two handle homework during the week and weekends? Do you have set times you feel your children should be working on school stuff, or are you two more laid-back? How do you two handle if one of your children falls behind or slacks off in school?
It may seem silly to have these conversations ahead of time but when these issues happen you will be glad you addressed them first.
Divorce is a pain but coparenting doesn't have to be (usually!) Approach the school year with a good attitude and so will your kids and ex!