By: Tasya Rivera Martin July 4th is over and the stores are soon filling up with back-to-school supplies, clothes, etc. The return of the hectic school schedule is nearly upon us once again…only now you’re doing it as a divorced family. Here are some helpful tips on how to plan for a stress-free transition back-to-school with your kids post divorce.
- Paperwork, paperwork…and more paperwork. Who fills it out? Communicate as much as possible with your co-parent regarding the paperwork for school, child care and extracurricular activities. Regardless of who fills it out, be sure that all forms include both parent names, addresses, phone numbers (work, home, cell), and email addresses.
- Inform the school office and the children’s teachers of your family’s different situation this year. This will help your child so that they do not carry the burden of having to explain the change to his/her peers and teachers and it also helps the teachers/school staff understand your child’s position. Also get in contact with your child’s school counselor and introduce him/her to your child. School counselors can be a great resource for your child during this transition.
- School events: Family Social Night, Open Houses, Meet and Greet with Teachers, Back to School Info Night – whatever event your child’s school has, it is important that both parents participate as much as possible. Both parents should be responsible for keeping informed through the school about any scheduled events. If you and your co-parent cannot yet be together in the same room, contact the school/teacher to arrange for alternate times, if possible.
- Extracurricular Activities: Most children these days are involved in a lot of activities and those crazy schedules continue once you are divorced. It is necessary for you and your co-parent to communicate about your child’s activities and make sure you are on the same page. It is essential to create a shared calendar to which both you and your co-parent have access. Try www.google.com/calendar, www.ourfamilywizard.com or www.cozi.com. If you have multiple children with multiple different activities all on the same night, you and your co-parent will need to work together. Include in your shared calendar which parent is responsible for transportation to and from the child’s activities. Try to sit down with your co-parent at the end of the summer to plan out the school year’s activities. It will avoid any last minute issues throughout the year. Again, make sure both parents are included in the list of contacts/emails so that you are both up to date with any information regarding the child’s activity. Avoid discussing an extracurricular activity with your child until you and your co-parent have made a final decision. Be sure to address with your co-parent how the extracurricular activity is going to be paid. Both of you should also participate and attend your child’s extracurricular activities so that your child knows that you both support him in his activity.
- School shopping…who does it? In part, it depends on whether you receive child support or whether you pay child support. Basic child support in Minnesota includes payments for the costs of the child’s housing, food, clothing, transportation, education, and other expenses to care for the child. If you and your co-parent have a 50/50 parenting time schedule and have a low amount of child support, or none at all, then you and your spouse will need to discuss sharing in the back-to-school expenses. Some parties split them equally, some split them in accordance with their respective incomes. Depending on your parenting time schedule, it may even be a good idea to have duplicate supplies and clothes at both homes so that your child does not have to cart everything back and forth between the two homes.
- Homework…try to establish the same consistent study routine at both homes. Having consistency among the homes in all areas can reduce stress on both the child and the parent.
- Transportation: What house is your child going to after school and is he taking the bus or is someone picking him up? When you have a shared parenting time schedule, transportation to and from school can get complicated and can be a lot to remember for you and your child. Be sure your child (and the school) knows how she is getting home each day.
Bottom line is communicate, communicate, communicate with your co-parent. Remember, this is your child’s school year and the focus needs to be on him/her and not on the differences between you and your co-parent. The better you can communicate, the better your child will ease into this new family dynamic.