4 School Situations and How to Handle Them as New Co-Parents
A new school year always brings about change for children. New teachers, different classmates, and more advanced subjects require kids to take a fresh approach to the new year to meet these challenges and other new situations they'll face. Parents should also be prepared to tackle new obstacles in their child's new school year, especially if they have recently separated.
Your child's first school year after your separation or divorce will be challenging for your whole family. It will require you to consider a change in your outlook on how you will help your child thrive through the school year now that you're raising them in separate homes. It also compels you and your co-parent to consider how you plan to handle various school-related situations that impact your child but may not directly involve them.
Homework, field trips, school lunches, and parent-teacher conferences are all matters that you might not have put much thought into how you'd handle them before. Now, it's worth taking time to think about and plan ahead for these and other school situations.
Homework and Projects
Ideally, parents who share parenting time will be on the same page when it comes to expectations regarding their child's homework and studying. Kids are good at adapting to new routines, but that doesn't mean that they won't need some extra support throughout this transition. When it comes to school projects and daily homework, it's important to define your collective expectations so that they do not let their work slip depending on whose house they are at.
Get your child into a routine for completing assignments and prepping for tests that they can stick to in both homes. As they move between your houses, be aware of where their books and other essential school-related items are. While you might make it your child's responsibility to pack and ensure that they have everything they need to go to their other parent's house, it doesn't hurt to do a quick once-over with them before they head out to make sure nothing important gets left.
Big projects and presentations may also arise here and there. While these might not require constant attention, do your best to stay on the same page about these. Again, your child's school supplies and turning in projects on time may be their responsibility, but you can help make sure that everything moves between homes and that projects get turned in when they're due.
Field Trips and School Events
Field trips are a highlight during the school year for many kids, so keep them exciting. When your child comes home with a field trip permission form, have a plan in place for how you will communicate trip details and handle any costs. Use a secure communication system where you can each attach and share forms as you receive them and handle any discussions about reimbursements and expenses for trips.
Sometimes, teachers ask for volunteers to chaperone field trips. It's true that not every parent be able to attend every—or even just one—field trip due to busy work schedules or other obligations during the week. If it's doable for you, try to volunteer for at least one field trip or other school-related events during the year. Other activities might include a back-to-school carnival, holiday celebrations, or some extracurricular event that takes place over the weekend. Coordinate with your co-parent as to which activities you plan to attend.
Parent-teacher conferences provide parents with insight as to how their child is performing in the classroom through the eyes of their teachers. As co-parents, strive always to attend these meetings together. As long as you can maintain a peaceful demeanor during the meeting, it will serve both of you well to be there and hear about your child's academic performance directly from their teacher. If attending the conference together is not a workable option, consider asking your child's teacher to schedule a time to meet with each of you individually.
Remember: these meetings are about your child, so keep the focus on them. If their teacher asks about your parenting arrangement, be honest. Be sure that their teacher knows that you are parenting from separate homes as it can only help them to gain insight into your child's behavior.
After the conference, both you and your co-parent should give feedback to your child. Let them know how it went and your thoughts on what their teacher said. Even if you know your co-parent talked to them already, always share your two cents to let your child know you care about their academic life.
Whether your child takes a lunch or buys one at school, have a plan for handling meals at school. Depending on your child's age and development, they may be able to pack their lunch and have done so for a few years already. If you must do so, always provide nutritious options that won't leave your child feeling hungry through the end of the day. Give yourself a few minutes extra each morning to pack the lunch or do it the night before. If you're not used to doing it, prepping the meals the night before will likely give you a little more time to do it without feeling rushed in the morning.
If your child buys lunch at school, be sure that you and your co-parent have a plan for how to handle these costs. Check your parenting agreement to see if there is anything noted about lunch costs for your child, and follow the agreement if it is. In some instances, school lunches will be covered by child support payments. If you are not sure about your situation, decide on a plan with your co-parent. You may want to check with your attorney or family law professional to get their thoughts on this situation if you can't reach an agreement together.
Handling school-related matters as co-parents after separation is likely to be somewhat touch-and-go. Take the time to consider these and other common school situations to help mentally prepare yourself to handle them before they each arise. Also, have a communication plan in place so that you can prep yourselves for these situations before and as they arise. On OurFamilyWizard, tools like the shared parenting calendar, expense and payment log and file storage space can assist you and your co-parent share information about school-related events and much more.