Parents who have decided to divorce can expect to spend many hours discussing child care with their family law lawyers. Regardless of their child custody arrangements, many ex-spouses adopt a co-parenting style. Co-parenting allows both parties to have a say in their child’s development and upbringing. Also, co-parenting can be especially important in late summer and early fall during the weeks leading up to the start of school.
How can parents who no longer live together ensure that they co-parent seamlessly at this busy time of year? In general, they can apply a few tips to their co-parenting processes. These tips can be useful for children whether or not they are returning to school in person, receiving an online education, or attending school on a hybrid schedule basis.
Put the Child’s Interests First
Any decisions made regarding the back-to-school period need to center on the child or children. That is, parents must consider what is best for the child from a holistic standpoint. This does not mean that parents need to give children everything they want, such as the latest gadgetry or trendiest clothing. What it does mean is that parents should make choices that make sense for the child.
A good example of this might be to set up a joint email account that both parents can access. The email account provides a single, centralized repository for all communications regarding the child. Teachers, coaches, dance instructors, and even doctors can use the email to send messages about the child that both parents can read. Though not all divorced parents have the trust to maintain a joint email account, many may find it a satisfactory way to keep all information in an accessible repository.
Set Up and Follow a Schedule
Co-parenting efforts can break down rapidly without cohesive schedules. Consequently, co-parents will want to establish a schedule for the upcoming months. The schedule can be on paper or online, as desired. The benefit of an online schedule is that it can be pulled up on any device, as well as managed effortlessly. Some software providers offer scheduling software that keeps divorced parents literally on the same page.
Older children and teens also may want to be able to see and review the schedule. Again, this provides a touchpoint for everyone to refer to from day to day. Obviously, schedules can change, such as if a child or parent gets sick. Nonetheless, having a game plan is always preferable to making it up as needed.
Share the Cost of Back-to-School Supplies
Children of all ages need back-to-school supplies. Sometimes, schools will give students a list of must-have and nice-to-have items needed on day one. Other times, children will be allowed to choose what types of supplies they need to do their best work.
Co-parents frequently divide the costs associated with purchasing back-to-school office supplies such as notebooks, pens, folders, locker decorations, backpacks, laptops, calculators, and extra textbooks. However, in some cases, parents have already negotiated in their parenting plan that one parent will pick up all the back-to-school costs, and the other parent will take care of other costs. Rather than arguing about costs, newly separated parents who are confused by their agreed-on parenting plan may want to speak with their family law lawyer to review the documents they signed months before.
Put a Premium on Routines
Children thrive when they have routines. Over the summer months, though, their routines are often disrupted by vacations, day camps, sleeping at friends’ houses, and eating meals at unusual times. When they get back to school, they need to commit to routines again, and parents can help.
The problem comes into play when co-parents establish different household routines. One parent may allow a child to stay up until 8:00 p.m., whereas another might believe that the child should be able to go to bed whenever they like. Over time, fluid schedules can cause a child to perform poorly in the classroom or to slack off on homework. It is much simpler for children to adjust to heading back to the classroom when their parents remain consistent in their treatment of routines.
Attend Important School Events Together
Youngsters like to see their parents together, even if their parents are divorced. When feasible, both parents should attempt to attend critical school moments together, such as back-to-school night, teacher meetings, and in-school parties.
Even parents who go through contentious divorces can often put their differences aside to show a unified front for their kids at school. They may no longer want to live together, but they can be proud and supportive of their children regardless. Children who see their parents making an effort to be collaborative rather than combative feel less anxious, which can translate into improved performance and confidence in their academics.
Encourage Extracurricular Activities
Not all children enjoy extracurricular activities such as dancing or soccer. Nevertheless, co-parents may want to present their youngsters with the option to try an extracurricular program. Even online extracurricular offerings can help children learn about subjects that interest them, from sports to science and everything in between.
Who pays for extracurricular activities? This is another question that is probably answered in the parenting plan. If not, parents may want to divide the cost, or talk through their family law lawyers to come up with an agreeable payment solution. Alternatively, parents who cannot stretch their budgets to provide extracurricular activities may be able to find free choices, such as after-school programs.
Equip Children with Safe Gear
In the era of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), parents are expected to send their children to school with appropriate personal protective equipment. This means a clean cloth or disposable mask, hand sanitizer, and potentially even tissues and disinfecting wipes.
Parents should also be on the lookout for any signs of health problems in their children. Currently, most elementary children in the United States cannot receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This puts them at risk of contracting or passing the virus. It is up to co-parents to share pertinent health information immediately with each other and their child’s school.
Strong Co-Parenting Produces Strong Child-Parent Bonds
Is co-parenting easy? Not always, especially during the first back-to-school season. It gets easier, though. And many times, speaking with a family law lawyer can help bridge gaps in the original parenting plan or adapt it to changing circumstances.
Towson Family Law Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Provide Clients with Tips for Smoother Back-to-School Co-Parenting Experiences
Children of divorced parents fare much better going back to school when both parents work together for the wellbeing of the children. The caring Towson family law lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC are available to offer you compassionate and experienced legal guidance and support. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 443-589-0150. Located in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Bentley Springs, Columbia, Freeland, Hereford, Hampton, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks Glencoe, Parkton, Phoenix, Pikesville, White Hall, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.