The start of the school year can be exciting for the kids, but stressful for the parents. When you’re newly separated or divorced, however, this once-familiar process can suddenly get extra complicated.
If you find yourself trying to delicately navigate the co-parenting challenges of your first post-breakup back-to-school season, here are some tips that can help you get off to a positive start:
Look at your parenting plan
It’s never wise to trust your memory about these things, so pull out the parenting plan that was ordered or approved by the court and read it. Make sure that you understand the allocation of decision-making authority over your child.
If it’s mutual with your co-parent (which is common), make sure that you assert your right to be involved in parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings or any other important decisions about your child’s education.
Plan to split the extra expenses
Child support only goes so far, and the start of every school year brings a lot of extra expenses. Make it clear that you’re willing to split the additional costs for school uniforms, books, supplies, band instrument rentals, sports equipment and fees and whatever else has to be paid with your co-parent.
You should, however, also talk about limits. Talk with your co-parent and see if you can agree on what is a reasonable amount to spend on shoes and clothes, who will do the shopping and whether the bills will be split 50/50 or some other way that’s more reflective of your different incomes.
Hash out a communication method
During the school year, you have to be ready to handle a child’s sudden illness or an emergency at school, school closings due to weather and other important things. Figure out the best way to coordinate with your co-parent. Routine events, like band concerts and homeroom parties, can be put on a shared calendar, but a group chat or text message might be better for emergency situations.
Try to establish some shared routines
You don’t have to run your household the same way that your co-parent runs their household – but you probably should try to establish some shared ground rules for things like homework, activities on a school night and bedtime. That can keep your children from feeling confused or frustrated by the constant disruptions in routines every time they switch households.
Hopefully, everything will go smoothly. If you do encounter conflicts with your ex-spouse, it may be time to find out what else you can do to protect the best interests of your children.