As the school year begins to ramp up, some parents may be feeling anxious about dealing with issues related to divorced or blended families. These parents are working hard to ensure that divorce, modifications of custody, or even adoptions with Post Adoption Contact Agreements do not negatively impact their children. Porchlight has some advice for those who want to avoid unnecessary conflicts this school year and to continue to raise their children in supportive and loving environments.
Parenting Plans: A good parenting plan allows families to get ahead of disputes. Parents can design a roadmap that details all roles, responsibilities, and schedules for the involved family members. If your Plan has not been updated in a while, it may be time to consider a modification action. Modifications can be done amicably, and spelling out expectations while everyone is getting along can help avoid conflict later on. If there has been conflict in the past, a Parenting Plan can spell out remedies to ensure both parents can be involved in all aspects of the child’s life.
School Communications: Both parents should be listed as contacts for the school and any extra-curricular activities the child is in. Even is the Parenting Plan makes it one parent’s responsibility to notify the school of contact information, it is a good idea for both parties to reach out directly to teachers, coaches, tutors, etc., and ask to be included in all communication regarding their child or children. This way, nothing gets overlooked and the teachers know you are interested in being involved. Also, in addition to providing their contact information, both parents should make sure they have the appropriate access information (log-in and password) to the school’s parent portal.
School Work: If parents set their school work expectations at the start of the academic year, their child or children’s grades are less likely to suffer. Parents and involved family members should discuss who will be responsible for making sure homework and long-term projects are completed and submitted on time, especially if projects will need to be worked on while the child is at different households. There is no standard answer for this; parents might want to split the work by child, by academic subject, or one parent takes the homework while the other helps with the projects. It just depends on what works for that family.
After-School Activities: Prior to signing your child or children up for after-school activities, all parents involved should discuss their willingness to participate. For example, who will handle the logistics? (Pick-up, drop-off, off-campus transportation.) Who will be paying for the program and any associated costs? (Registration, uniform, equipment.) If the child or children is enrolled in a particular activity, will this limit their homework time or negatively affect a parent’s parenting time? Working out all of these details prior to enrolling a child in a program can save headaches later on. Also, it helps gauge whether a child can realistically participate in certain after-school activities.
Parent-Teacher Conferences: Parent-teacher conferences are an important aspect of parenting during the school year. As these conferences are designed for the benefit of the child, parents should approach these conferences with a positive attitude: they should be cooperative, inclusive, and interested. They need to leave any negative feelings about former spouses or blended families outside of the office and concentrate on what will help their child’s performance at school. To avoid potentially awkward interactions, parents should discuss how they want to handle parent-teacher conferences. Again, there is no standard answer. Parents might want to split their attendance (by child or by meeting date), go together with the other parent, or involve/exclude step-parents. Whatever is in the best interests of the child.
When it comes to co-parenting with divorced and blended families, a little effort at the start of the school year can prevent future conflicts and ensure that all parents are actively involved in their child’s life. If you need help developing or modifying a Parenting Plan or want to discuss co-parenting issues, contact Porchlight at (678) 435-9069 or [email protected]