by Brette Sember
As your child heads back to school, this is a good time to re-evaluate and tweak your parenting schedule. Fall is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings and a chance to get organized in all aspects of your life.
If your child is starting school, it may be an adjustment for all of you. Your ex may have had mid-week visitation and this can become more difficult. If your child has always slept over at the other parent's house mid-week, continuing this will offer a sense of continuity, as long as getting the child to and from school is easy. Midweek evening visits may need to be adjusted for earlier bedtimes.
Getting used to a school schedule takes time. If your child was not in preschool, none of you are used to your child being away all day. Even if your child went to preschool, real school is now mandatory, whereas you could pull your child out of preschool on a whim. It's important that your child have the opportunity to sleep well at night, eat a healthy breakfast, and have time after school to unwind. This may mean adjusting your visitation schedule. Allowing longer, less frequent visits can sometimes help. Instead of seeing the other parent three times a week, a schedule that allows for alternate weekends might make more sense now.
After school activities are one of the biggest curve balls your visitation plan will be facing. It's important to find a balance that allows your child the opportunity to explore and develop his or her interests, while also finding time to spend with the non-custodial parent. Sit down with a calendar and see how the activities fall and compare this to your planned visitation schedule. It is perfectly okay for a child to have a scheduled activity during the non-custodial parent's planned time, as long as that parent is able to handle the necessary transportation.
Having both parents involved in the child's activities is the ideal plan. However, depending on the scheduling, it might make sense for the non-custodial parent to be in charge of something like dance classes, which generally happen on a single scheduled day per week, and have the custodial parent manage an activity such as soccer which might have games and practices scheduled at unpredictable times and places. Having one parent in charge of an activity does not mean the other can't come and watch and cheer.
As school starts up, so too does the homework load. Both parents should participate in homework if possible. This can be done by making sure that the parent the child is with supervises that day's homework. Things can get confusing with work going to both households and it takes organizational skills to make sure everything gets done and is returned to school on time. You might also make arrangements for one parent to handle projects in certain subject matters that match that parent's area of expertise.
Going to school is hard work and kids need to be able to focus their energies on learning. Minimizing family stress can help your child do his or her best in school. Try to keep the visitation schedule running smoothly with as little ups and downs as possible. Having a regular schedule will help your child feel secure and best able to succeed in school.
Brette McWhorter Sember is a retired family attorney and mediator and nationally known expert about divorce and parenting after divorce. She is the author of: