It’s that time of year again, its back to school time! If you are anything like us, you are secretly relieved because the kids are starting to truly drive you bonkers! At the same time you are a bit (read A LOT) panicked because you have once again left everything to the last minute and are making a mad rush to get everything organized - uniforms, lunchboxes, ballet, soccer, basketball…..all that fun stuff!
What about if you are separated? It can add an extra layer of stress. Here are our tips for separated or divorced parents to co-parent during the back to school rush.
1. Make a plan for the first day of school
In an ideal world both parents would attend drop off on the first day of school. However, this is just not realistic, even when parents are still together. What works for some families, is to facetime or skype the other parents before heading off to school. Another idea is to take a photo of your child at the school and send it to your co-parent. It can be tricky when there is high conflict with your co-parent, but trust us, your kids will appreciate both parents being involved in this milestone.
2. Communication is the key
We find the most overwhelming part of the school year is remembering all the special dates and events. This becomes even more stressful if you feel like you have to constantly remind your co-parent- nothing is more frustrating! Take this opportunity in the new year to relieve yourself of this burden. Each year the school releases a calendar of important events, grab this calendar and enter the dates into a shared calendar or a co-parenting communication app like Divvito (www.divvito.com) . During the year you can keep adding excursions, parent teachers interview, school concerts etc to the calendar.
3. Avoid Backpack dramas
As children of divorced parents, we remember the irritation of the backpack we needed to pack while we divided our time between two homes. Your kids might similarly complain about the backpack, and sometimes they might even be embarrassed. Try lighten the load for your kids by having important belongings at both homes. Some families also speak to the teacher and make sure there is an extra bag space for their child.
4. Keep the School in the loop
If you are recently separated, make sure to tell the school ASAP. Trust us, you are not the first parents of the school to separate, they will understand and will be well equipped to help your child navigate through this change in their life. Make sure both parents receive school newsletters, reports and bulletins. Nowadays most school have online portals too, and both parents should have separate logins. If you see your child is struggling, reach out to the school and teacher, they might need a bit of leeway and that’s OK!
5. Dreaded homework
Getting your kids to do their homework is hard enough! Putting two different homes into the mix can make it even more stressful. The key is to make sure both parents are on the same page. Have a chat with your co-parent and discuss what your expectations are when it comes to homework. Ideally, you want your child in a routine which is carried through both households, consider if they need to do homework on set days of the week? Sit at their desk or the kitchen table? Do homework before dinner?
Every family is different and only you know what will be best for your family and your child! Whatever routines you choose to put in place this year…make sure you enjoy that first latte in peace on Tuesday morning! You’ve got this!