Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The ABC's for Back to School Co-Parenting

By Claire James

It’s that time again. Dads and moms are scrambling to finish kids’ extensive school supply lists and figure out the after school activity calendar. Children are alternately excited and sad that another summer is coming to an end. It is a stressful time of year for any family, but particularly when mom and dad are divorced or separated.

If you’re divorced or separated, it’s for a good reason. At best, you fell out of love with your ex. At worst, you hate your ex with a passion and can barely stand to be in the same room with her or him.  Regardless of the situation, your children will do best during the back to school transition (and in general) if you can put aside your differences and work together.


A – Always disclose information

Most Texas divorce decrees give both parents the right to receive information concerning the child’s education, to attend school activities, to consult with school officials, and to confer with the other parent before making a decision about the child’s education. Talk to your attorney about what your particular order requires, but in general, you have a duty to disclose information about your child’s schooling to his or her other parent.


Many parents find it is helpful to schedule weekly or bi-weekly conference calls to discuss how the child is doing and any upcoming tests, extracurricular activities, and the like. Think of this call as a business meeting and treat your ex courteously as you would treat a colleague in a professional setting (whether or not you enjoy his or her company). If you and your ex cannot communicate without spiraling into non-productive discussion, try using email or an online social media group rather than talking by phone. Create a shared online calendar for the child’s school events so no one misses a back-to-school open house or school play. 


B – Be focused on your child

During the back to school transition, you may end up spending way more time with your co-parent than you’d like. When this becomes frustrating, strive to keep your mind focused on your child’s welfare. Shift your thinking about your co-parent; instead of thinking and talking about him as “my ex,” start referring to him as “Susie’s dad.” I’ve often suggested to clients that they change their ex’s contact information in their phone – if your ex is stored in your contact list as “No Good Cheater,” or even her name, change it to “Bobby’s mom.”


When your mind travels back to the things you couldn’t stand about your ex as a spouse, refocus on your child. Regardless of how you may feel about your co-parent, your child likely sees the best in him and loves both of you. Resist the urge to dwell in the past and choose to respect your ex’s role as a parent.  


C – Coordinate and cooperate to include each other in your child’s school life 

Events like school plays and sporting events are a big deal to kids. Communicate with your child’s other parent about upcoming events and coordinate so one or both of you will attend all school-related events. Attend parent-teacher conferences together whenever possible to discuss how to help your child. Presenting a united front sends a message to your child and his or her teachers: regardless of what happened in the past, you love your child enough to put his or her best interests first during the back to school transition and always.


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