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Back to school - a coparenting opportunity

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As summer ends and kids return to school, coparents face a lot of changes and opportunities to work together for the benefit of their children.


As kids head back to school, they often need a lot of new clothes and school supplies. While some coparents may have accounted for these sorts of needs in a legal separation or divorce agreement, many other have no such agreements or found these burdens too small to be worth explicitly calling out. However, shopping can be both a logistical and financial burden if it falls on one parent. Whatever your agreement or understanding is regarding back to school needs, and however much you each see them during the school year, this is a great opportunity to coordinate with your coparent for the direct benefit of your kids.


Particularly if you and your coparent each have the kids during some school days, there is likely to be homework that comes home during your coparent's time but is still not yet turned in during your time, or vice versa. But, even if the kids are always with one parent for school nights, homework or projects could span weekends. If you don't see the kids much during school days, homework could even be a great new topic to include in FaceTime or Skype chats.

Working on homework or projects as the kids move back and forth between households requires communication and coordination with the coparent, but is far better for the kids than ignoring and leaving for the coparent any homework that is due on the coparent's time. Of course, one parent may be more comfortable with or capable of helping the kids with particular homework or projects, which is another opportunity to coordinate who will help the kids to maximize their benefit from having two involved parents.

If both parents want to be involved in the kids' academic lives, sharing returned projects and homework with the coparent can be a nice way to help them feel connected to the kids' academic lives even during the time they didn't have the kids.

School communications

In addition to homework, myriad communications come home from the school. Those communications might announce school events, advertise extra-curricular opportunities, or inform you of child-specific grades or issues. Again, if both parents want to be involved in the kids' school lives, sharing those communications can help the parent who didn't receive them feel involved.

Communications can be shared by physically sending them back-and-forth, if the kids move between houses frequently. Or, in these modern times, texting a smartphone photo of a school flyer takes almost no time.

Attending school events (plays, parent teacher conferences, band concerts, etc...)

If you're able, it's great when both parents can attend important events in the kids' lives. If your relationship is such that you can go to parent/teacher conferences together (without fighting, sniping, or being uncivil), that gives the teacher a chance to interact with both of you simultaneously. However, if that won't work, it's usually possible to schedule two separate conferences so the teacher at least meets you both and you each get to hear directly from the teacher what's happening.

Similarly, if you can both attend kids' events, they will surely notice and feel supported by both parents. You don't have to sit together if that doesn't work for you (and not sitting together is better than sitting together and fighting!) But, showing that you can both be there for the things that are important in their lives helps them feel like they still have a family with two parents, despite living with one at a time.

Coordinating extra-curriculars

Extra-curricular activities can present a unique coordination challenge between coparents, in that they have the potential to require participation/activity on both parents' time. Your coparent is under no obligation to take your kid to the soccer practice or piano lesson that you signed the child up for, but your child might want to participate in activities that span both parents' time. Clearly, coordination between the parents and coming to an agreement what activities both will support is ideal.

Extracurriculars can also impose a financial burden. Similar to school supplies, how to handle it might or might not be spelled out in a legal agreement, but there will undoubtedly be exceptions that give you both the opportunity to do what's best for the kid and abide by the spirit of the agreement in how to pay for things (whether that means an activity is paid for by the most interested parent or split according to some formula).


Back to school brings lots of changes, which you can view as fresh opportunities to do what's best for the kids. Coparenting in the best interests of the kids involves putting aside your relationship with your coparent (and any feelings that are between the two of you, such as competitiveness or fairness) to focus on what's best for your children.

Thanks for reading, and you're a great parent!


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