Co-Parenting During the School Year: Things to Consider

What To Expect Depending on Your Child’s Age

Parenting is never easy, but it can become even more complicated when you and your child’s other parent are divorced or separated. Not only does your child have to adjust to splitting time between both parents, but you, the parent, must adjust to building a new type of parenting relationship with your former spouse. On top of this, your children are growing and changing daily, meaning their needs change rapidly. This can be overwhelming. But you are not alone in this. It is something that all divorced parents must go through.

Keep reading for tips on how to work with your co-parent to support your child/children no matter their age.

Daycare, Preschool, & Elementary School

Parents of young children have a lot on their plates, not the least of which is helping your child transition to the new experience of going to school every day. However, when your children are very young, they spend less time at school each day than older kids (not that this makes the transition any easier). Consequently, many parents must also figure out mid-day pickups and changes to daycare or afterschool programs.

Common co-parenting concerns when your children are ten years old or younger:

  • Does your child go to school every day?
  • Does your child need before or after school care?
  • What other activities does your child participate in?
  • How will the school communicate with you and your co-parent?
  • How will your child’s teacher communicate with you and your co-parent?
  • Who will pick up your child if they aren’t feeling well or need to go home early?
  • Who are your emergency contacts for your child?

In these early years, communication is incredibly important. We know this can be challenging if you are newly divorced. With this in mind, we encourage co-parents to establish rules regarding how and when they will communicate with each other and include this in their parenting plan. We also recommend reviewing your parenting plan if you are ever unsure about something. Adjusting to divorce takes time, and your parenting plan is a great resource.

Middle School & Junior High

As your children get older, their school schedule becomes more regular, and the school day tends to be longer. They may also start participating in more after-school activities. In some ways, this can make things easier. However, communication between yourself and your co-parent is still crucial. Your pre-teens and young teenagers are going through a lot of changes, and middle school can be particularly difficult.

Common changes that occur during middle school that co-parents should be aware of:

  • Kids may begin participating in more or different extracurricular activities and sports.
  • Kids become more independent but often still require parental help staying on top of their school schedules, homework, and project deadlines.
  • Academic expectations typically intensify in middle school as teachers prepare your kids for high school and beyond.

If it has been a few years since you were divorced, your child’s transition to middle school or junior high may mean that you and your co-parent must reassess your visitation schedule or other aspects of your parenting plan. If you find that your or your child’s needs have changed drastically, you may wish to consult with an attorney regarding a modification.

For more information on modifying a parenting plan or visitation schedule in response to academic changes and challenges, review our blog, “Preparing for Back-to-School: Modifying a Custody Schedule.”

High School & Beyond

If you are parenting a teenager, you know that this time is both precious and difficult. As your child prepares to get a job, go to college, and move into adulthood, their academic and social pressures intensify. Most teenagers have incredibly busy schedules and many demands on their time. Teenagers need a lot of support, even as they become increasingly independent.

Important considerations for co-parents of teenagers:

  • Academic rigor often intensifies, creating more stress and pressure on students.
  • School athletics and other extracurricular activities may become more competitive.
  • Students are frequently subject to more standardized testing, including PSATs and SATs.
  • Teens are often given more freedom to manage their schedules and workload.
  • Many teens get part-time jobs while in high school.
  • Many students are also preparing for or going through the college application process.

If you and your co-parent have plans to support your child after high school, now is a good time to revisit those plans and ensure they are still adequate for your child’s needs. For example, many parents have a 529 plan to help fund their child’s college tuition. As your child’s goals become clearer, talking them through with your co-parent may be helpful to ensure that you are all on the same page.

No matter your child’s stage, the Law Office of Alexandra White, PC, is here to support you and your family as you navigate life and co-parenting post-divorce. Call our law firm if you have questions regarding your custody or visitation agreements.