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Co-Parenting Tips for Back To School Season

Co-Parenting Tips for Back To School Season

With back to school season upon us, we understand the toll it can take on newly divorced or co-parenting families. As if going through a divorce isn’t hard enough, soccer schedules, homework regimes and agreeing on new bedtimes can be enough to send back-to-school stress levels in high gear.

Pair that with the desire to understand and appropriately respond to your child’s continued needs and new co-parenting schedule can be a lot to take in. For those newly divorced parents heading into back to school season, here are a few tips to help your child cope with this new experience:

Stay Engaged

Although you’ve like just gone through an emotionally turbulent summer and are now trying to manage two households, it’s important to stay engaged in your child’s day-to-day activities. Continue asking them about their day; their new teachers, conversations with their friends, challenges they’re having, how they’re doing with their new homework load, etc. Remember, this is about putting the kids first.

Keep Talking to Your Kids

Be prepared to answer the probing questions from your children asking, “Why?” It's very important to avoid casting blame or making negative comments about the other parent. Children are more savvy than ever on topics that only 5 years ago they were not and that includes divorce. Consider that while your spouse may have made mistakes in your relationship, he or she can still be a good parent—and you need them as part of the co-parenting team. Find opportunities to communi­cate your respect for your spouse with your child, thereby mod­eling how you can maintain mutual respect and kindness among all family members even in the midst of disappointment and hurt.  

Keep it Civil

For your child’s benefit, always remain civil when speaking about your ex-spouse.” More often than not, kids typically don’t benefit from knowing all about their parents’ relationship issues and all about the breakup. We understand parents can be caught off guard at the loneliness that can accompany divorce and end up “dumping” on their children. Remember, children, even teens especially are not quite adults yet and should not be treated as your friend even if they seem to want to help. This creates a loyalty conflict in the child which could lead the child to feel like he or she needs to take on the role of a parent to the parent. When you are feeling vulnerable and need to vent, consider seeking out a supportive adult friend or therapist counselor.  

Engage Your Child’s Teacher

Teachers should also be considered part of the co-parenting team. It’s important to inform your child’s teachers of your family’s new situation this year in an effort to help your child. It can also be beneficial to get in contact with your child’s school counselor and introduce him/her to your child. School counselors can be a great resource for your child during this transition. Additionally, back to school events such as Family Social Night, Open Houses, Meet and Greet with Teachers, Back to School Info Night, Parent-Teacher Conferences – whatever event your child’s school has, it is important that both parents participate as much as possible. Both parents should be responsible for keeping informed through the school about any scheduled events. If you and your co-parent cannot yet be together in the same room, contact the school/teacher to arrange for alternate times, if possible.  

Let Them be Children

This is the only time in their lives where they can focus on learning about developing interpersonal relationships, learn about who they are and what they want to be, engage in activities that help them develop and grow into better adults and live life for the moment without thinking about how the bills get paid or the roof is maintained over their heads. The most important lesson to remember is to let the children be children and enjoy their childhood. Resentment about divorce or separation grows in children when they are forced into the middle of disputes or to become the messengers or arbitrators. They want both parents to love them and it is easy for them to be lured into this role. Avoid the temptation of doing that to your children.

For the sake of your child, it’s important to remember that this is your child’s school year and the focus needs to be on them and not on the differences between you and your co-parent.  It is essential that both parents have involvement in the child’s academic progress and school events. The better you can communicate, the better your child will ease into this new family dynamic.

We understand that back to school season can be a stressful time during tough family transitions and our family law lawyers at Gevurtz Menashe are here to assist you.

If you would like to learn more, call our Portland offices at 503-227-1515 and our Vancouver office at 360-823-0410. You may also contact us online to schedule a consultation. 

Mark Barzda is an Of Counsel Family Law attorney at Gevurtz Menashe. He is a member of the Oregon state bar and focuses his practice exclusively on family law issues, including divorce, custody and support issues, modifications and grandparent rights. Mark also practices Collaborative Family Law, that focuses on reaching solutions and resolutions to divorces without the need of litigation.