When kids live between mom and dad (apart) they sometimes have unexpected challenges with homework, backpacks, and school requirements. Often details get lost between the homes by no fault of anyone specific; however, here are six ideas to help your children have a great school year while helping you and your co-parent communicate and strategize without losing your minds:
- Explore using a co-parent app as a “central location” for all communication. The apps help organize calendars, request changes to the calendar, upload documents from school or the doctor’s office as well as a central location to exchange receipts and reimburse each other as needed. There are a few that are free and a few that cost money. A few of my regular recommendations include:com, OurFamilyWizard.com and WeParent.app.
- Inquire at school about dates and information as far in advance as possible and share this with your co-parent. Details that need preparation, payments and sometimes extra items brought to school might include Picture Day, Field Day, Field Trips, Award Day, Parent-Teacher Conferences, Open House and anything that they might be involved in such as band, sports, art or a science exhibit. The earlier in advance these details can be added to both homes’ calendars, the better.
- Try to plan for a “Happy Handoff” every time you exchange the children and don’t use that time to discuss parenting business. Be intentional about your facial expression, tone of voice and body language during the handoff; use an upbeat, positive inflection in your voice as you send your child to the other parent’s home to help ease the stress for your shared children.
- Plan to have a co-parent meeting at a local coffee shop or by Zoom or phone call at least once a month as school gets started. The handoff is NEVER the time or space to discuss details, but neither are the ball games and choir concerts. Instead, pro-actively schedule a time to talk monthly for 60 to 90 minutes about all things child related: homework strategies, extracurricular activities, social media, cell phones, internet access, finances, etc.
- Homework Gameplan: work together to show alignment between homes regarding what is required at school. Come up with consequences and rewards that can be shared between homes accordingly.
- Internet, Cell Phones & Screen Strategy: The number one thingdivorced/divided co-parents need to create and work on is shared plan on how much screen time and what apps and games a child has access to. And no matter how old they are, buy them an old-fashioned alarm clock so they can have their phones charging elsewhere besides their room. Kids need to sleep at night and so often they use the excuse of “needing” their cell phones 24/7 because it’s their wake-up alarm. Check out resources like CovenantEyes.com, ScreenStrong.com and Bark.us for a deep dive on these topics.
Tammy G. Daughtry, MMFT is Founder of Co-Parenting International and the “One Heart, Two Homes” Digital Resource. She and her husband, Jay, are a blended family of four.