As summer comes to a close, parents are preparing to send their children back to school. That transition can be especially challenging for divorced parents and their children, particularly if the separation is recent. It is important for parents to put aside their grievances and work together to encourage and nurture children through the brand new school year.
Here are some practical strategies for a peaceful and productive co-parenting relationship throughout the back-to-school year.
Account for Back-to-School Costs
The new school year comes with a multitude of expenses: clothing, supplies, snacks, and tech devices. Once the year starts, there are school pictures and fundraisers. Plan for these costs well before September rolls around to avoid stressful disputes later.
In Maryland, child support specifies the amount one parent is required to pay the other. Typically, the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent, but this is not always the case. Generally, the custodial parent is responsible for buying most of the child’s clothing because these costs are included in the child support payments. The same is true for instructions and lessons of any type.
When it comes to school supplies and all expenses related to school, both parents can share these costs or agree on another financial arrangement in their parenting plan.
Establish a Routine
Research shows children benefit from a predictable routine. Family schedules are linked to academic success, healthy social development, and greater resilience during tough times.
A family schedule is a way to maintain structure and stability for children that rotate between households when parents share custody. Co-parents can agree on times for breakfast, homework, chores, bedtime, and other activities between both homes to reduce confusion and ensure consistency throughout the school year.
Keep in mind, a family routine does not have to be overly-detailed or specific down to the minute. However, if both parents agree that chores must be done before gaming, or bedtime is 9:00 p.m. for example, children know what to expect every day and sense their parents are united in this regard.
Communicate With the School
You child’s teachers, administrators, and coaches want to set them up for success. It is important to let the school know if your child is struggling or if there are major changes at home, like divorce.
On an emotional level, teachers who have a glimpse into your child’s home life can better support them as they navigate these changes. Always reach out to the school if you notice changes in your child’s grades, moods, or overall health and well-being.
On a practical level, the school should have a copy of your basic parenting schedule in case of emergencies. It is not necessary to disclose the intimate details of your separation, but keep the school notified of any address or contact information changes for students and parents.
Attend School Events Together
If you and your ex have an amiable relationship, it can be beneficial for your child if you attend school-related events together. School can often be a welcome respite. It should be a safe, neutral space where your child is encouraged to thrive in every way.
Show your child their parents are on the same page when it comes to school; enough that you are willing to support them together at back-to-school night, school plays, athletic competitions, and other memorable events.
If the relationship with your ex is tense, try to minimize communication at these events. Keep interactions brief and civil. In the end, the fact that you are both there will mean a great deal to your child.
Use a Shared Calendar
A shared calendar is an invaluable tool to stay organized, keep track of school projects and events, and curtail contact with your ex. Input all of the important dates and custody schedules into the calendar well in advance so you are ready for that exciting first day of school.
There are a wide range of free and low-cost calendar apps and tools for shared parental planning. Most allow co-parents to add events, upload documents, track expenses, and message each other.
If your child is old enough and has their own smartphone or device, you can add them to the shared calendar. Just be careful to prevent them from accessing messages and other communication between you and your ex.
Check-In With Your Child
Once that first day of school arrives, it seems like family life goes into hyper speed. There is so much to do and remember, it is easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. Whether you have been divorced for a while or just recently separated, prioritize regular check-ins with your child.
Every age and stage of development comes with its own challenges for children. Keep the lines of communication open with your child, your co-parent, and the school to ensure your children have the love, guidance, structure, and support they need for a memorable school year.
Child Custody Matters for School-Age Children
A clear and comprehensive parenting schedule is the foundation of a healthy co-parenting relationship. If you are considering divorce or are further along in the process and want to revise an existing parenting plan, choose a family law firm with experience delivering good outcomes for divorced clients.
In Maryland, the child’s welfare takes precedence over everything else in divorce. Choose a lawyer who will advocate for your child and protect their best interests at every stage of divorce.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Resolve Complex Custody Matters Quickly and Effectively
Our Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC understand the ways divorce impacts every member of the family. That is why we will approach your case with care and compassion. Call us at 443-589-0150 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. We have offices in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland and assist clients in 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.