As school districts across New Jersey begin preparations for another school year, what are you doing to prepare for “back to school” as a newly divorced or separated parent? If you’re wondering how to combine co-parenting and school obligations, here are some tips to ease the transition:
Review child custody agreements. Is your summer parenting time plan different due to such issues as work obligations, vacation, and summer camp? Review any changes to your child custody agreement that are upcoming for fall. Will you go from having your children on certain weeknights to having them on weekends only because of how far you live from their schools? Will you have to make arrangements at work to accommodate pick ups and drop offs at school? Now is the time to start making plans for any upcoming changes.
Verify all phone numbers and addresses. Expect to fill out a flurry of paperwork at the beginning of the school year, including names and addresses of each parent and emergency contact information. Have you decided which one of you will be responsible for filling out this paperwork? Does the parent filling out paperwork have the correct phone numbers and address for the other parent? Make this a priority.
Share calendars and school-year schedules. To help you both keep on track with what school vacations, days your child will stay after school for soccer practice, and other special days, as soon as school district schedules are available, send one to the child’s other parent. If this something you don’t want to do, instruct the school to have duplicate schedules and announcements (and other mailings) sent to the other parent. Likewise, if you are not receiving this kind of information, call the school and request separate mailings.
Make contact with the guidance counselor. If you are newly divorced, or you and your spouse have gone through a separation since the end of the previous school year, especially if there have been changes in child custody arrangements, let the school know about these changes as soon as possible. Your child’s teachers may still be on vacation right up until school begins, but in more New Jersey public school districts, other school personnel are there throughout the summer, including the school principal and guidance counselors. Try to make an appointment with the guidance counselor, in person or over the phone, to share information. If he or she is not available, speak to the principal.
Make a list of expenses coming up for back-to-school and the school year. Buying new clothes, school supplies, soccer uniforms, equipment for the science fair…spending money on school can add up, even if your child attends a public school. August may be a good time to review child support payments to make sure child-related expenses are covered equitably by both parents.
Make it a team effort. The start of a new school year is a chance for everyone…you, your former spouse, and your child…to have a new start. So take advantage of this! Make this the year that you and your former spouse attend school concerts and sporting events together in support of your child, and attend joint meetings with teachers without the added tension. In other words, decide to work together to help your child succeed, and then do what’s needed to make this happen.