Starting a New School Year – Tips for Coparenting After a Divorce.

Anybody else feeling a little frazzled over the start of a new school?

Yeah, me too.

The start of a new school year always feels a little bittersweet. Part of me is super pumped about having a predictable routine again (and getting my life back 🤗 ). Another part of me dreads spending those last dog days of summer racing around 🏃🏽 getting everything prepped and ready before that first BIG day.

Things like:

  • Shopping for school supplies.
  • Buying clothes and shoes that fit.
  • Shifting schedules.
  • Trying to get your kids to adjust to a new bedtime.
  • Managing the dread, anxiety, or excitement your children feel over being in a new class or a new school.

Any or all of it can feel incredibly overwhelming (not to mention the after-school activities that also kick off in the Fall.)

Stressful right?

However, for those of you parenting apart, there are often additional stressors lurking in the shadows.

Maybe you spilt over the summer and you’re trying to figure out how this coparenting thing is even gonna work. Now two parents are supporting two separate homes. Who pays for what may not be crystal clear anymore and you’re haggling over how to cover expenses. Parenting roles may also be in flux, as you each navigate how to manage kid-related issues like homework, bedtimes, tracking stuff and scheduling.

You could also be a seasoned coparent having to deal with the same set of frustrations that drive you crazy Every. Single. Year.

You might have a coparent who won’t pay for anything or you may feel like you pitch in your fair share yet still get hit up for more. Perhaps you have to deal with a coparent who makes scheduling extracurricular activities super challenging or one that never shows up for things at all.

You may being doing your best to keep kids out of the middle yet have coparent who continues to involve the kids in financial issues like child support, paying for school related items or fees for activities.

When school starts lots of old and new issues can crop up creating a lot of stress for both parents and children.

 

As a parent you may be feeling added stress over:

  • Having to see your coparent at school events.
  • Increased communication about how to manage kid-related issues like homework, tracking their stuff, and scheduling.
  • A lack of communication on important matters like registering for dual credit courses, getting books for the class reading list or not getting information about upcoming assignments or events.
  • Haggling over who should pay for what.
  • What to tell your children’s teachers and school.

 

Your kids may be worried about things like:

  • Are both of my parents going to show up at my school recital? And if they do, who do I walk up to first? Will they speak to each other?
  • What if my stuff isn’t where I need it to be?
  • Which parent gets the information my teacher gave me?
  • Can I talk about the divorce? What do I say to my teacher? What about my friends?
  • What about my future? Will I be able to go to college, play football or continue to be on the swim team?

If the start of a new school year has you a little stressed, below are a few tips on how to make coparenting more manageable while keeping your focus where it belongs… on your kids.

 

COPARENTING STRATEGIES FOR MAKING THE SCHOOL YEAR LESS STRESSFUL FOR YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN.

 

Make sharing info easy.

Keeping track of open houses, upcoming school events, supply lists, homework, and after-school activities, takes some serious skill. Especially when you’re parenting out of two homes.  Consider using a coparenting app to help minimize complications (and miscommunication)  about your children and school-related issuesNo matter how long you’ve been divorced, .

Many apps provide features for tracking expenses, requesting scheduling changes, and logging information about important events and appointments. Instead of playing phone tag, losing track of emails, or exchanging a ridiculous number of texts back and forth, you can post deets on the fly that both coparents can access.

Whether you are recently separated or years down the road, a coparenting app can make sharing information a lot less stressful for both coparents and children.

Is it an extra hassle? It might be. However, remember even though your relationship has changed, your children’s needs have not.

Sharing information with the other parent isn’t about making life easier for them; it’s about making life easier for your kids.

Give your child’s teachers and school a heads up.

For parents with littles, if transitions between households happen before or after school, be sure to share your parenting schedule with your child’s teacher/school. While Becca may know that Tuesday is her day with Dad the stress of a new school year, may throw her for a loop. A reminder from Becca’s teacher to get in the car line instead of the bus line could really help her out at the end of a long school day.

In addition to providing teachers with contact information for both parents, request that all communications regarding events or assignments get sent to both households.

If you’re not the parent who has typically managed theses details in the past, you may need to step up your game. Consider sending an email or making an effort to meet your child’s teacher so you can be in the loop on what’s happening on the daily.

For older children, you may have to make a judgment call. Most tweens and teens are pretty private and aren’t going to be thrilled about you broadcasting your family’s personal situation to school faculty.

Unless you have a good reason, consider waiting to see how your teen is handling the school year before meeting with teachers. If issues start to crop up or you notice significant changes in their behavior/school performance, then you may want to discreetly schedule a parent-teacher conference.

If you do decide to share information with the school, keep in mind, saying less is best.

Avoid providing intimate details about your family situation. It won’t help your kids if your divorce becomes the new hot topic in the teacher’s lounge.

 

Help your kids figure out what to say.

The start of a new school year can be pretty stressful for kids at any age. Add divorce to the mix and your child’s pre-school dread may be off the charts. Even if your child seems like they’ve adjusted to the split, they may still be worried about what to say to everyone else.

Help take the edge off by having a conversation with your children in advance about what they might say to teachers, friends, or other concerned adults about your family situation.

Start by asking your kids what they might feel comfortable saying to their friends and teachers. If your children don’t know what to say, offer some suggestions. Work out a couple of short, simple explanations that feel comfortable for them.

Some possible options might be:

“Over the summer my parents separated, so I have two homes now. Could I have a flier about the open-house for each parent?”

“My parents decided they would be happier living in different homes, which is why they’re getting a divorce.”

“A lot of things changed in my family over the summer break. My parents decided to get a divorce, and we’re still working things out.”

“My parents split up over the summer, so I have a different schedule now.”

If people ask questions that leave your children feeling uneasy, let them know it’s okay to say, “Thanks for asking, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it yet.”

 

Keep the focus on your kids.

The start of the school year also comes with lots of family-oriented events (open houses, soccer games, the beginning of football season, school recitals, etc.) While hanging out with your coparent may not be something you’re looking forward to, do your best to stay focused on your kids and use good coparenting etiquette.

No matter how long you’ve been divorced, be aware that those occasions can stir up feelings of grief and loss for your kids.

When parents:

  • Refuse to show up to events if the other parent is there,
  • Give each other the silent treatment or
  • Act like the other parent doesn’t exist,


It makes a hard situation for kids even harder.

Instead, do your best to:

  • Show up to events to support your child whether the other parent is there or not,
  • Make an effort to be polite (even if the other parent isn’t) and
  • Do what you can to minimize stress for your children.

 

Keep in mind, when a child runs out on the football field or steps on the stage for their school play the first people they look for are their parents.

Be thoughtful about school-related expenses.

The start of school can be a very expensive time for lots of families. After a divorce, money is often much tighter and who covers what may not clear.  Not surprisingly, how school-related expenses get handled can be a huge source of tension between coparents.

All too often when issues around expenses come up, kids get caught in the crossfire.  Imagine Sara needs an expensive book for her biology class in college. When she asks Dad if he can help her buy it, Dad tells her, “Go ask your Mom, she’s the one with all the money.”

Luke has to have new shoes for school. Mom suggests Luke asks his Dad to buy them since he never pays for anything.

 

Although you may feel like you’ve pitched in your fair share, do your best to keep your kids out of the middle.  Conversations about finances and kid-related expenses should happen between parents, not through children.

 

When Sara asks for the Biology book, Dad could say, “ That’s a pretty expensive book, I’ll talk to Mom and see what we can do.” If Luke needs new shoes, Mom could avoid putting Luke in the middle by asking Dad herself or telling Luke she needs to look at the budget to see what they can afford.

If you have a coparent that just won’t step up, it can take a lot of willpower not to voice your frustration to your children. Remember, how you feel about the situation is your issue, not theirs. When children are exposed to financial disagreements between parents (or strong feelings about things being unfair ), it can really stress them out.  Some kids may feel a sense of responsibility for the situation (“If I didn’t ask for things my parents wouldn’t argue.”) or they may decide to keep quiet about their needs and to avoid rocking the boat.

 

Practice radical acceptance.

IRL, not all issues are created equal. Some coparenting situations are more complicated and challenging than others.

Although you may be doing your best to put the children first, your coparent may not.

Sometimes the best you can do, is all you can do.

While you have every right to feel resentful towards a coparent who refuses to pay for things, doesn’t help out with homework or never gets the children to school on time, focusing on what you can’t control won’t make things better.

Putting all of your energy into obsessing over those problems or trying to change the other parent will only keep you feeling stuck and miserable. AND that doesn’t change anything for your children.

Instead, work on accepting that for now, this is the way things are.  You don’t have to like them.  You only need to acknowledge the situation for what it is.  By accepting reality instead of fighting against it, you can redirect your energy towards focusing on what you can control and how you can make life better for your kids.

Got a tip about coparenting and school related issues? Shout out below and share the wisdom 🙃

Until next time…

x,

 

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