Addressing your child’s needs as co-parents while they embark on a new school year can be difficult. Back to school is an important time for children, filled with exciting new people and routines. Children may feel overwhelmed by the changes, especially if you are also planning a change in your parenting timetable. Learn a few best practices for back to school as co-parents to help make this transition smoother for everyone.
Communicate Openly With Your Child
Often, parents can dispel a child’s feelings of anxiety or nervousness at the start of a new school year with open communication. Talk with your child about the new year and all the positive aspects of going back to school. If possible, speak with your child as a team, with both parents involved. Offering your united support can make your child see that no matter what else changes, he or she will always have both parents’ love and guidance. Prepare your child for a change in his or her daily routine, and explain how and why things will be different this year.
Keep Your Child Involved and Informed
Changing your child’s schedule without warning or explanation can easily result in resistance and temper tantrums. Work with your co-parent to discuss upcoming changes early on to give your child time to ask questions and understand what is happening well in advance. Speak to your co-parent in advance, and work out what extracurricular activities are possible this year. Then, give your child some say in which activities he or she chooses. This will empower your child and instill a sense of control.
Plan a Final Summer Event
Make the end of summer a celebration instead of something to dread by planning a party or special event with your child. Include your co-parent in the planning, and come up with an idea and date that works for both of you. A simple backyard cookout can do the trick, or plan a special end-of-summer vacation. Look back on all the fun things your child did over the summer. Establish that this might be the last summer event, but it is just the start of all the fun and exciting fall events to come.
Prepare for End of Summer Blues
The start of the school year often means less time spent with both parents. Your child likely enjoyed extended stays with each parent over the summer, and grew used to spending the days in a parent’s company. This can strengthen the parent/child bond, but it also makes returning to school harder for the child. If your child acts out, appears depressed, or seems angry, talk with him or her and discover the source of the problem. It may be a reaction to the significant changes your child is undergoing.
Coordinate Your Schedules
School events and activities are important for children, who usually want both parents to be there. Coordinate your schedule with your co-parent to ensure one or both of you can attend important school-related events. If possible, meet with your child’s teachers together and talk about what may help your child. Plan your schedules so you can both attend parent/teacher conferences to discuss your child’s future. You and your co-parent may not want to attend things together, but remember that this is the best way to be there to support your child.
Be There for Your Child
The most important back-to-school tip for co-parenting is to simply be there for your child. Show your support even when you are away or unable to make it to an event. Being actively involved in back to school activities and your child’s life can prevent psychological stress on your child and reduce anxiety related to sudden changes. Make sure your child feels the love and support of both parents.