I will let you in on a little secret. Even the most amicable of former partners and co-parents have bad days where they are annoyed with their ex. After all, there was a reason you separated. Think of this annoyance as a low level hum running like a current below you.
Different opinions and parenting styles can aggravate that low level hum, forcing it to turn into behaviour that makes you snappy and spiteful. And when you look at schooling, there is potential for this to happen. Are you focused on academics while your co-parent places more emphasis on sport? Perhaps you feel that your child should have restricted access to devices while your partner allows unrestricted access during the times they live with them.
It is important to get on the same page with your co-parent about these different parenting styles and present a cohesive and kind front to your children to make sure they are not drawn into the middle of this low undercurrent of tension and left wanting to act differently in both houses to please the parent with whom they happen to be living that week.
With that in mind we have put together 5 tips to help you sit down (either virtually or in person) to nut out ways to make the school year smoother:
Tip 1 – Work out the best way to communicate
The beginning of the school year is an ideal time to get in touch with the teachers of your children and the school to work out the best way to communicate messages to both parents and how you will communicate with the teacher and the school.
If you are going to send emails to the teacher, I suggest you always copy (or cc) the other parent in. Even if it something that you view as unimportant, it is good to get into the habit and it helps the other parent feel that they know what is happening during the times your children are not living with them.
Tip 2 – School and extra curricular choices
There are some things that should be negotiated at the start of each year (or the start of each sporting season). These things are like where the child will go to school, what after school activities or sports the child will do and who will pick the child up. If the child is old enough to catch public transport, the way they catch transport, the way they pay (such as an Opal, Miki or other Transport Card) and the age they can start to catch public transport need to be discussed between co-parents and a united front put forward. It is no good one parent letting a child catch the bus or stay home alone after school at 12 when the other parent would be more comfortable setting 14 as the age that will happen.
Tip 3 – Share notes about important things
Why not open a shared google drive to share notes about important things. If a child is struggling academically, needs tutoring, is being bullied, is struggling with a certain friend or health issue, these are great things to note in a shared google doc or other place easily accessible by both parents. It also let’s both parents add to any document if they have taken the child to see a Doctor, therapist or other allied health professional.
Tip 4 – Share permission slips and school reports
Ask the school office to note down that all communications and notes from the school, school reports and other items be sent to both parents rather than just one. If you sign a permission slip for your child, scan a copy to that shared google drive (or similar) so the other parent can see you have done that and they don’t need to double up on it.
Tip 5 – Be consistent with technology rules across both households
Technology has become a big part of our everyday lives. It is tricky making sure kids don’t spend too much time on technology but gets even trickier when both parents have a different rule at their respective households. My advice is to be consistent with rules about screen time and where that will take place (for example, if there is a no screens in the bedroom rule at one house, it should probably be at both houses and enforced in both houses) so the children do not get confused. If things are stricter at one house rather than the other, you may find the child ‘saves up’ screen activities and neglects their home work at the more permissive parent’s house as a result.
Our Family Matters course is jam packed full of tips like this and practical templates and other resources to help you have these awkward conversations and get on the same page. Enrol in the course now here and make a start today.
Start how you mean to continue my friends, as it will smooth the conversation and it will keep both houses moving a positive direction. That is good news for the kids and that is great news for you! Be kind to yourselves. Always.