A How-to Guide for Co-Parenting and Active School Schedules

Divorce is challenging for couples, but children have their own unique experiences when it comes to having divorced parents. Helping children cope with divorce includes helping children address their emotions, providing support, and navigating parenting styles. Divorced couples who choose to co-parent in a friendly manner, find it to be most effective and in the best interests of the children.

Co-parenting takes on a whole new role when busy school schedules are involved. With soccer games, science fairs, and sleepovers in the mix, essential details can get overlooked, resulting in frustration and hurt feelings all around. However, with proper preparation, co-parenting children can be a successful endeavor. Read on to discover helpful tips for co-parenting during the school year. 

What Is Co-Parenting?

Co-parenting and parallel parenting are popular parenting styles utilized  by divorced parents. Co-parenting, also called shared parenting, involves two parents who commit to equally participate in their children’s lives even though they are no longer married or romantically involved. This parenting style can give children a sense of stability as everyone navigates the new territories of separation.

There is no singular, fool-proof way to co-parent. It simply involves sharing responsibility, being flexible, accommodating the children, and communicating with one another. Effort goes a long way when it comes to co-parenting. In fact, studies have shown that effective co-parenting contributes to positive mental health development in children. 

How to Co-Parent School-Aged Children

Co-parenting is a helpful tool for many families. Even still, successful and respectful co-parenting can sometimes be easier said than done. Conflict and jealousy can arise in separate households. 

Sometimes, divorced parents don’t want to interact with each other or support one another’s parenting decisions. However, when it comes to the well-being of children, it is paramount to put differences aside and develop a cordial working relationship. 

Just like it’s important to develop a summertime parenting plan, it’s essential to create a co-parenting arrangement for the school year. Consider the following tips for a successful school year:

1. Consistency Is Key

If one or both parents become careless with the co-parenting schedule, conflicts can arise. Children benefit from structure and consistency, and creating a reliable routine is the best practice to avoid problems. 

It is helpful for both the parents and children to know who will pick up and drop off at school, and whose house the children will be staying at each night. Parents should try to remain consistent with the schedule so that the children know what to expect.

2. Communicate With the School

The children’s school should be informed of the co-parenting situation and have both parents’ contact information on hand. Divorced parents can ask the school to send each parent separate copies of school materials such as report cards, permission slips, extracurricular schedules, and lesson plans. When both parents are kept informed about school, it is easier to communicate and coordinate schedules.

3. Use Technology to Help

Technology can be a helpful resource to keep families informed and communicative. Shared calendars are some of the best tools to use during busy school years. On a cloud-based shared calendar, each parent can plug in their personal schedules and each child’s schedule. 

Some of the best shared calendar applications include:

  • Google Calendar
  • Outlook
  • Calendly
  • Taskworld
  • OurFamilyWizard
  • Cozi

Once a shared calendar is set up, divorced parents can use it to keep track of holidays, school events, appointments, and anything else that comes up.

4. Attend Events Together

Whenever possible, parents should attend school events together. When both parents make an effort to be present at events together, it demonstrates to the children that they are the top priority. When parents attend school events together, it also eliminates the need to relay important information later on. 

Examples of school events that parents can attend together include:

  • Parent-teacher conferences
  • Band or choir concerts
  • Athletic competitions
  • Science fairs
  • School plays 
  • Fundraisers

If parents sense that more issues arise when they spend time together at events, it’s crucial to reach compromises. It is always an option for parents to sit apart from one another at concerts, plays, or games, or simply make a choice to attend events separately. However, if civility is possible, parents should try to make every effort to support the children together. 

5. Back-to-School Expenses

Back-to-school commercials begin earlier and earlier each year, and with them comes back-to-school shopping. New school years bring many expenses for all types of families. School shopping lists can include items like:

  • New clothes and shoes
  • School supplies
  • Backpacks
  • Tablets or computers
  • Athletic gear

Parents should collaborate and decide who will be responsible for certain purchases. Working together can help avoid duplicative purchases and missing supplies. 

If  conflicts arise over which pieces of technology offer the best value, or what size clothes are most appropriate, parents should make every effort to compromise and find common ground. 

Effective Co-Parenting Is Possible During Active School Years

Even for married couples, busy school years can get stressful. For divorced parents committed to co-parenting, it is possible to handle hectic school schedules with thorough communication, consistency, and compromise. 

At its core, co-parenting has children’s best interests at heart. When in doubt, separated couples should try to put their differences aside and focus on compromises that work for the entire family. With practice, juggling busy schedules each school year will become easier. 

This article contains general legal information and does not provide legal advice. For legal advice, please contact M. Sue Wilson Law Offices directly.