If you are newly-divorced or have new members of a blended family, it's important to think ahead and plan for the new school year. School-related issues can tend to bring up unnecessary conflict if parents are in a shared child custody arrangement, which is why we recommend creating a plan proactively so that everyone involved will be on the same page.
The first thing we recommend is to create a detailed plan of each of each parents' and/or step-parents' responsibilities. Address anything that might become a dispute in the future and be specific about expectations. Try to be as thorough as possible, as this plan will greatly help prevent misunderstandings or confusion.
Here are some important matters to include in your school plan:
Homework & Academic Performance Expectations. Here are some examples of items to include in your plan:
- Who will be responsible for making sure the child(ren) completes their homework and turns it in on time? How will this be monitored?
- Who can help the child(ren) with homework or bigger projects when needed? Maybe one parent is better suited to help with one subject than another, or maybe one parent has more time to do this.
- If the child(ren) is struggling or falling behind, what steps should be taken next?
After-School Activities. Decide on the following together and include it in your plan:
What extra-curricular activities will the child(ren) be involved in?
- Detail the logistics of the child(ren)'s involvement in those activities
- Who will be responsible for facilitating the activity and in what capacity?
You should discuss the following questions as you make these decisions:
- Will the activity place an undue burden on any parent?
- Will the activity negatively impact any parent's visitation or time-sharing?
- Will the activity be in the child(ren)'s best interests, or will it cut into homework time or other important life aspects?
- What are the financial implications?
Interacting with teachers and coaches. We highly recommend that every parent involved seriously considers what the most healthy approach to these relationships will be. Bad-mouthing another parent to a teacher or manipulating situations to exclude another parent are examples of unhealthy behaviors that alienate the child from their other parent and create conflict at school. It is far better to prioritize your child(ren)'s best interests by being cooperative and not inviting drama or emotional turmoil.
Co-parents should decide who will participate in events like Parent-Teacher Conferences, parent volunteer events, special events at school, etc. Will all parents attend every event, or will some other arrangement be made? Will step-parents be involved?
Remember that for most of these issues, there is no "right" or "wrong" answer. The important thing is that everyone involved is 100% clear on their responsibilities and what the expectations are for school-related matters. Your primary goal should be that the child(ren) get the support they need and are able to succeed academically.