Much to the joy of parents everywhere, if not for their kids, September sends the young people back to school. If you have recently separated or divorced, this time can be a difficult transition for both you and your children. You might be entering into a different parenting schedule or having to interact more than usual with your ex-spouse. Your child might be in a new home and a new school or back with you after several weeks away. Remember when your family is dealing with the transition, kids come first! Here are some tips that might help you, your co-parent and your children along.
1. Communicate Scheduling – Some families benefit from a weekly or monthly meeting to discuss the calendar, homework, activities, and discipline or emotional issues. A calendar, preferably something electronic, where you can see and share the parenting schedule, doctor appointments and school activities, is essential. Keep emails and text messages short and give yourself a cooling off period when conflict arises. For high-conflict parents a service such as OurFamilyWizard (www.ourfamilywizard) is a helpful way to communicate and schedule. Try using a parent backpack where you can keep all medications, notes from teachers or to each other, health and insurance information which needs to be shared, and other necessary communication. This backpack can go back and forth with your child, but also keep him or her out of the “middle.”
2. Coordinate Shopping – School supplies and new clothes/uniforms are the responsibility of both parents, and generally considered an extraordinary expenses outside the normal child support payment. Try exchanging lists of things that need to be purchased and receipts as well. Each parent needs to be involved in the back to school purchases, both financially and for shopping trips. Whatever you do, do not bring up money in front of your child. Money is a parenting conversation to be had over the phone or at a family meeting without your child around.
3. Do the Homework – Even if you have less time with your child than you did in the summer, homework and projects are an important part of your time together. Your child needs hear from both parents that education is an important part of life and that school has to be a priority. Try not to fall into a pattern of one parent being the disciplinarian and one parent being the “fun” one. Back each other up, and keep your kids education in the forefront.
4. Attend Events and Teacher Conferences – You are divorced from your former spouse, but you are not divorced from your child. Your child needs to see you both cheering from the audience or the sidelines! Teachers need to meet both of you and share important information about your child’s emotional and intellectual development with you. Let the teacher know about the changes at home and in your child’s schedule. They might be able to help your child through the transition or offer insight about behavior you would not have otherwise. This may be your first divorce, but your child’s teacher has likely seen dozens.
5. Children Need a Voice – Listen. Empathize and comfort. Help your child to know and understand the new schedule. Let you child know that you are OK with the new schedule, and that even if you have less time together you will always be Mom or Dad. Let your child talk about time with your co-parent and encourage that relationship to stay strong.
It’s not easy. For you, your co-parent, or your child. Hang in there and keep the love and the hugs coming. Your kid is worth it.

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