Getting children back to school is hard enough, but if you are co-parenting with a former spouse, even the simplest tasks can become difficult.
Here are nine tips for navigating back-to-school more comfortably for parents and — and most importantly — your child.
1. Make sure your child knows that both parents will be involved and supportive throughout the school year.
• Meet teachers
• Go to open houses
• Attend parent-teacher conferences and special education meetings for 504s and IEPs — if possible, together
• Attend classroom and school events when possible
• Support after-school and extracurricular activities
2. At home, both parents need to promote good study habits — including proper diet, getting enough sleep, setting some structure within a schedule, and allocating time for homework — even before school starts!
3. Sharing finances and time commitments. Both parents should contribute time and money to share the excitement and expense of back-to-school shopping — first-day-of-school outfits; new clothes and shoes; backpack; and supplies. (This is often an exciting adventure for children — both parents should get to enjoy the excitement!)
4. The All-Important Backpack. Moving from one home to another can leave children feeling uprooted and unstable. Their backpacks can be the one “place” that is theirs alone. Help them customize and accessorize it, and assure them that no matter where they go, they can have it with them, as well as whatever they chose to keep inside.
5. The ceremonial first day of school. Whether it involves walking your child to school, being at the bus stop, or even bringing children to school to meet their teacher, both parents should be there, if possible, for the first day.
6. Throughout the school year, pay attention to your child’s school routine. Regularly ask your child about his or her day at school — not only about tests and projects, but also about whom they played with at recess, which teacher had the most interesting lesson, homework assignments, what they’re reading, what’s coming up, etc.
7. Post a family calendar so children know when “mom time” and “dad time” are. List any and all events so everyone knows what’s coming up — and so that there are as few surprises as possible.
8. Stay connected with your co-parent. Make sure both of you know how your child is doing — academically and socially. Each co-parent should focus on making sure assignments are completed on time.
9. End-of-summer celebration. Before school starts, plan a Last Bash of Summer for you and your child. Focus on ending the summer on a positive note and help everybody get excited for back-to-school.