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The 1, 2, 3s of back-to-school co-parenting

There is a change in the air with the end of the summer. New teachers, new school supplies and new schedules compete for attention with the carefree days and nights of early August. For children of divorce, however, another new element can be added to the list of novelties: new tension, as co-parents grapple with the increased demands of the school year. If you can find time, there are steps you can take to ensure that your child makes a smooth transition from vacation to the classroom.

Communicate with your co-parent

As with all aspects of co-parenting, it is important to remember that maintaining your child's welfare is your end goal.  While the flurry of paperwork and school requests may appear overwhelming and cause stress at the beginning of the school year, remember that these aspects are temporary and can be resolved in an organized fashion. Establish a check-list of responsibilities for the school year and determine a pick up and drop off schedule so that your children know where they will be staying on any given day of the week. 

Meet with your child's teacher

Your child's teacher is also concerned with your child's best interests. It may be helpful to view your child's teacher as a guide to accompany your child on the academic path. To help your child's teacher do the best job possible, you and your co-partner should establish your goals and concerns at the beginning of the year. Establishing a channel for communication early in the school year will simplify issues when they arise as the year progresses.

Establish contingency plans

Be aware that the beginning of the year can be chaotic. If you plan for a miscommunication with your co-partner regarding school pick up responsibilities, you can ensure your children's safety and maintain civility when these problems do occur. Create a plan and share it with your children so that they know what to do if someone forgets to meet them at the bus stop or after school program.

Enjoy the back-to-school spirit

While change can be stressful, new experiences are thrilling in their novelty. Celebrate the onset of autumn with trips to an apple orchard, school playground or trips to a forest preserve to observe the leaves changing color. If your children see you having fun with the arrival of a new season, they are likely to embrace the shifting of the year with joy rather than trepidation.

Whether you prepare or not, the new school year will begin. In maintaining channels of communication with your co-partner, child and child's teacher, you can ensure that the chill in the air is a reflection of the changing seasons, not a result of the new stressors caused by the impending school year.

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