Just as you and your co-parent have found your rhythm with the summer schedule, it’s time to re-adjust as the kids head back to school. Some parents love the increased structure of the school year while others fear the demands of school and after-school activities. Regardless of your position, a structured back-to-school planning conversation with your co-parent can ease the transition for your kids.
When I work with co-parents, an annual review/planning conversation is a big part of the process. This conversation covers big picture items, but not necessarily how to handle day-to-day concerns such as which child has a big school project coming or results of a doctor’s appointment or a meeting with a teacher.
Figuring out how to handle those types of issues are usually part of a separate discussion. This discussion often takes place close to the start of the school year as that is a natural time of reflection, transition, and planning.
Figuring out how to handle both the big picture and day-to-day details on an on-going basis is critical. During a divorce, you and your co-parent may develop a co-parenting plan, but the needs of your children will evolve over time. A plan developed when your child is five, will not meet the needs of a ten-year-old. Additionally, the lives of parents will also change over time. Having dedicated conversations gives both of you the opportunity to sort through changes and make the best decisions for all of you.
Co-Parenting Conversations: Back-to-School Planning
In order to help make these discussions as productive as possible, here are a couple of things to keep in mind:
- Topics to cover: The topics to cover will vary based on your family needs, but things you will definitely want to consider include: the school calendar, upcoming extracurricular activities, travel plans, and any family life events or changes. For example, if your child is taking driver’s education this year, you can talk about what that will look like. You can reflect on what went well last year and what you’d like to improve. For example, maybe your child did well academically but you’d like to see her more comfortable in social situations.
- Create an agenda: Ahead of time, both co-parents should contribute agenda items. Many items will be recurring one and some will be specific to where each child is at that time. Be respectful of the items that are important to your co-parent.
- Stick to the agenda: Treat this like a business meeting and stay focused and respectful. This is not the time to rehash why you divorced or what you see as your co-parent’s character flaws. Similarly, if you feel the conversation is going off the rails, calmly refocus, “I want to keep this productive. Let’s get back to talking about the plan for school transportation.” Brief, informative, friendly and firm are the concepts we teach co-parents to avoid escalating conflict in emails and texts, but it works well in conversation as well.
If you and your co-parent cannot productively have an extended back-to-school planning session, utilize professionals. Divorce coaches, mediators, and therapists all have skills to help keep the conversations on track. The goal is to set the year up for success so incorporate any strategies or professionals that will help you meet that goal.