While the beginning of a new school year is cause for many parents to celebrate, the new year can present a fresh set of obstacles for parents sharing custody of their children. Whether you’re newly separated or custody sharing veterans, making a shared custody arrangement work smoothly during the school year is no small feat. Here are 3 tips to get the school year off to a good start when your family is dealing with divorce:
1. Plan Out the School Year: Schedule a meeting with your ex at a neutral locale to map out a strategy for school breaks, long weekends and/or early dismissal days, being mindful of your existing custody arrangement. Be sure that you each bring a blank calendar and a copy of your child’s school calendar so everyone can be on the same page. Of course, things may change as the year progresses but having a basic plan in place will decrease the likelihood of confusion, frustration and conflict. If meeting in person is still too contentious, consider using an online shared calendar as a template, like one found in Google docs, to create something that you both have access to edit.
2. Set Out Who Is Responsible for Drop-Offs and Pick-Ups: No doubt your child’s school requires that parents set forth certain information for safety purposes like the child’s primary physical residence, addresses and contact information for both parents, which parent to call first in case of emergency and the name of any parent or adult responsible for picking the child up from school. Communicate with your ex to make sure he or she understands and agrees to their role in your child’s transportation. Lastly, don’t forget to make contingency plans! Make sure to have a plan in place for emergencies that everyone, including your child, knows.
3. Don’t Make Your Child the Messenger: Your child may be more than capable of communicating between you and your ex, but that doesn’t mean that he or she should bear that burden. It’s tempting to ask your child to deliver a message to mom or dad about an upcoming meeting or special event, but this information really needs to be coming from you. Afraid that talking to your ex will just cause more headaches? That’s what e-mail is for! As a bonus, e-mail also creates a written record, so your ex can’t later say, “but I didn’t know!”