As the chaos of summer is finally winding down, the chaos of school starting begins to rev up. Back to school shopping; the clothes, the supplies, the “teacher recommended lists…” as if any parent has the budget after a summer full of expensive camps and vacations to go and spend $500 on school supplies! This cost is even higher if you have become a single parent over the summer. The first back to school season after your divorce can be the toughest. Even though you may have bounced through it several times already, this is new territory, and the best thing you can do for yourself, your children and your co-parent, is to lay the groundwork for good habits. Here are some tips to help you do so.
Remember… you are on the SAME TEAM
Sometimes it definitely may not feel like it. Get into the habit of tackling tasks for the kids jointly, even though you are no longer in the same home. There is no need for all of the responsibility to fall on one parent, and frankly, it is no longer a viable option. Single parents do not have the same amount of time as the former stay at home mom or dad did, or even if both parents worked, each parent is now the head of their household, and that comes with double the workload. So split it up; one parent takes the child(ren) to buy the school supplies, the other parent takes them to buy school clothes.
Regardless of who takes them to buy what – share the cost!
Even if you are paying or receiving child support, costs such as these are shared expenses. Child support is meant to help the lower earning parent afford the home they are living in, the food they need to buy, and the utilities they need to pay. As any parent knows, school supplies and school clothes are NO JOKE! And when schools are sending you a list of MUST HAVES, you better believe they mean it! I have yet to have a school supply list cost less than $100… yes, I am talking about pencils, erasers, folders, etc.! R-I-D-C-U-L-O-U-S! I am telling you… none of us are aware of how school-age years change your lives and budget.
Yes, these are also a shared cost. So if you haven’t decided to keep a joint bank account or credit card to pay for child-related expenses, make sure to speak with your co-parent before enrolling the child in the sport. Yes, it is always nice to share the cost, but if one parent simply cannot afford the price, it is best to know that before enrolling, so you can decide if you want to take on the entire cost or not. Not to mention, the schedule. Make sure you have discussed the schedule with your co-parent, and it will work for them also. If many practices or games will fall on their parenting time, this will breed mutual resentment if they cannot or will not adhere to a commitment they had nothing to do with making, or feel pressured to do so and REALLY do not want to. Go back to step one – YOU ARE A TEAM – teams do not make unilateral decisions… TALK TO EACH OTHER! And by God, if there are issues with a forgetful child and the soccer ball is continually left behind at your co-parents home, BUY TWO! The amount of time, energy (and maybe even attorney or mediator fees) saved will more than pay for the extra soccer ball!
Plan ahead for the holidays!
Fall comes with the start of the holiday season. Many couples believe they will be able to handle the holidays as they come. Sometimes this is true. But – all the better is when the holiday calendar is known far ahead of time, and everyone can plan accordingly. This way, there are no hurt feelings, and children are not promised holiday events that will never materialize. Even if your holiday schedule is not in your Marital Settlement Agreement or your Parenting Plan, sit down together and work out a plan, sooner rather than later, so everyone has time to plan. If you need help putting it together, you can always come in, and one of our mediators will sit down and help you put this together.
Lastly, and maybe the most important, BE KIND to each other! You once were so in love; you created a human! Never forget that love. You do not have to be IN LOVE to remember the love you once shared. Love will help keep everyone making the right choices for your little people!
Need help with fall co-parenting? Contact West Coast Family Mediation Center to schedule your free consultation.
by: Jennifer Segura