Depending on where you live, the kids are either back in school or getting ready! This is an action-packed time of year and can be quite an adjustment from the long hazy days of summer. For some of you, back to school is a time of relief from the constant pressure of figuring out summer camp schedules and keeping your child(ren) out of trouble during work hours.
For those of you who are co-parenting, back-to-school time can be extra-stressful! Here are a few tips for a smooth beginning of the year.
- School Supplies. Before you stock up on school supplies, drop a text to the other parent to see what they have already purchased. If the other parent purchased the back packs, you can take charge of the other items on the list. Communication here is king! Come up with a plan that outlines who is responsible for purchasing mandatory items like PE clothes, glue sticks, pencils, and calculators. If you are at war with the other parent over who pays for notebook paper, it steals their joy, so try to keep it positive and fun for the kids.
- Back to School Activities. If you have joint custody, you should be receiving information about Back to School Night and other fun beginning-of-the-year activities. If you have sole legal custody, keep the other parent informed about the ice cream socials, band practice, sporting schedules, and other good times. If you have more than one child with activities at the same time, you can divide and conquer. Remember, that this time of year is about getting the kids off to a good start in their new routines.
- Discuss Extra Curricular Activities. Kids these days have so many things they can do after school. Have a chat with the other parent about what and how many activities are appropriate for your child(ren). If dad is a music enthusiast and mom loves soccer, it might make sense to have piano lessons during dad’s parental time and soccer practice during mom’s parental time. If soccer practice falls during dad’s time, you might want to adjust the visitation orders to coincide with the child(ren)’s schedule.
- Bedtime. Getting a good night’s sleep is critical to school performance. If you can agree with the other parent as to a bedtime for both households and stick with it, that is ideal. This can be a touchy subject because every household has its own rhythm. In the end, you are only responsible for what goes on in your household.
- Homework. After a long summer break, it can be hard for your child(ren) to get into the homework routine. If you and the other parent can agree on an after-school routine for ensuring that the homework is done, it will help ensure your child(ren)’s success for the school year.
- Exchange of custody. I think using school as the point of exchange can be an excellent way to tamp down on emotional exchanges. If you are exchanging your child(ren) at school, especially at the beginning of the year, stuff sometimes gets left behind. The book report that is in progress might get left at mom’s house, cleats might get left at dad’s house, etc. Help your kids make sure everything they need is in their backpack to avoid these “emergencies.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out of town and had to purchase forgotten items like socks, a brush, or a charger for my phone. So, when something important gets left behind, try to have a little grace.
- Communication is King. If you and the other parent are able to manage effective communication, you can pretty much disregard all of the other tips.
Enjoy this time because before you know it, they’ll be off to college or the workforce!