Does your school year parenting time schedule leave you feeling disconnected from your children? Getting more parenting time with your kids during the school year not only strengthens your relationship, but it also demonstrates to your ex that you’re committed to being an involved, consistent co-parent. This is extremely important should either of you pursue a formal modification to your custody agreement in the future. Here are easy some ways to maximize time spent with your children this school year.
Volunteer at your child’s school. Find opportunities to be a familiar face at your child’s school. If your work schedule is demanding, choose an activity that doesn’t require a big commitment: serving Hot Lunch, reading to the classroom, working on a committee for annual events such as the Winter Carnival or the Spring Fair. Chaperoning a field trip is another great way to grab extra time with your kids. You can ask your school’s PTA for volunteer idea suggestions or directly communicate with your child’s teacher.
Attend school events. Being a regular at holiday performances and school-wide events will help you stay connected to your kids, even if these occasions fall on your ex’s timeshare days. Besides giving you more time with your children, attending school events will foster relationships with other parents that could lead to more opportunities to socialize with school families.
Participate in holiday fun – even if you’re apart on holidays. Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) rob you of holiday cheer. If the kids will be with your ex for Halloween night trick-or-treating, see if you can sign up for Halloween activities at school to still be in on the spooky fun. The same goes for other holidays such as Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving — you can volunteer to help out with the class party for any holiday.
Supervise homework and help with class projects. Lack of involvement in homework and school projects can strain co-parenting relationships. Make time to help your kids with assignments and offer extra help. If you are particularly good at algebra, for example, ask your ex if you and your teen can meet once or twice a week to go over their homework and study for tests and quizzes together. If your work schedule cuts into homework time, volunteer to take your kids to get supplies for dioramas and science projects whenever these are needed. Your ex may be more than happy to avoid a last-minute trip to the crafts store!
Provide transportation to and from sports practice. Give your co-parent a break by volunteering to bring your child home from sports practice. Many parents find their best conversations happen in the car. Kids are sometimes more likely to open up when there’s no direct eye contact. Carpooling is another great way to keep current with your child’s social life. It gives you an opportunity to chat up their peers, and listen to your child and their friends talk about their interests.
Offer to take the kids on teachers’ workdays. Many parents dread teacher workdays when school is closed because they need to wrangle additional childcare, which can be costly. Keep track of these days on the school calendar and ask your ex ahead of time if you can take the kids. Your co-parent may be more than happy to be relieved of the hassle, while you can arrange to do something fun with your kids during the week. Get a copy of the school calendar and start planning.
Offer to transport kids to and from doctor appointments. Chauffeuring kids to the pediatrician and dentist for check ups can feel like a chore, especially to the parent with primary custody who already does most of these tasks. Give your co-parent a hand by offering to assume this duty when your schedule allows. If your custody arrangements include shared legal custody, having a relationship with your children’s doctors will help you stay on top of any medical issues.
Tips For Negotiating More Custody Time With Your Co-Parent
How you communicate with your co-parent can determine whether or not your requests are met with a “yes.” Here are some tips for broaching the subject that will lead to a successful outcome.
- Be in a good emotional head space when you ask. If your request is tinged with anger and self-righteousness, your ex is going to feel attacked and far less likely to accommodate you. No matter how much you dislike your former spouse, it’s important to be gracious and respectful.
- Be a team player. Don’t act as if your ex owes you more time with the kids by cataloguing all ways you feel they’ve robbed you. The goal is not to win a battle, but to work with your co-parent to support your children.
- Request, don’t demand. Your ex is more likely to say yes when you ask politely. If you threaten, pull a power play, or demand that you have your due, you’re going to come off as a tyrant, not a parent trying to nurture their relationship with their kids. Rehearse your request. Saying please and thank you, and adopting a friendly tone, will increase your odds of getting what you want.
- Get it in writing. These kinds of informal requests for extra time don’t require you to get sign off from a judge, BUT you should absolutely get any change to parenting in writing. So if your ex agrees that you will tutor your child in math 2 days a week from 3-5 pm, write this on a piece of paper that you been sign off on this arrangement. Should you ever need to modify your custody agreement in the future.
- Return the favor. If your ex is willing to accommodate your requests for extra time here and there during the school year, repay their flexibility if you get asked down the road for added time to celebrate a grandparent’s birthday or accommodate some other special request. Knowing that each of you respects special time with your children can strengthen your co-parenting relationship, which is a benefit to you and to your kids!
A final note: follow through on your requests. Make sure to stay on top of homework, medical appointments, extracurricular activities, and school events. If your co-parent sees you using your extra time productively, he or she will be more likely to cooperate with you in the future.
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