After an enjoyable summer holiday and returning to the new school term, now may be an opportune time to review your child custody arrangement and ensure that everything is in order ahead of the new school term.
Here are a few things to consider as you and your co-parent begin to navigate the children’s new school term.
- Review Your Agreement/Orders: After your holidays and before the new school term, you and your co-parent should sit down and review the custody arrangement for the upcoming year and ensure that you are both on the same page. This is an opportune time to check your calendars and make sure that things are aligned with the school term calendar and that there is no misunderstanding about the holidays/breaks and any other special occasions that will require child sharing between you and your co-parent. By doing this, you avoid any potential future arguments you and your co-parent may have before a big holiday and/or before a special event. This initial step ensures that you and your co-parent are in communication and things are running smoothly throughout the entire co-parenting journey.
- Communicate with your Co-Parent: We like to always repeat this step because it is the foundation of any good co-parenting relationship. This is the time when your emotions should be put aside and the focus should remain on the children and their best interests. Thus, the key is to communicate effectively and with as much respect as possible. Respectful communication does not include controlling, manipulative, aggressive behaviour displayed through verbal communication, text messages and/or email communication. Careful consideration should be given to your tone and how you speak to one another as well. The goal for both co-parents is to raise a happy, healthy child and this should be the main focus when communicating with each other.
- Respect Each Other’s Parenting Style and Rules: Whilst you and your co-parent may not always agree on parenting style or house rules, it is important that you respect each other’s differences. It is during these moments of key differences that you and your co-parent need to sit down and discuss how you want to raise your children and how you can both reconcile the differences you may have in your parenting styles and in the rules that you both may have at each of your homes. You cannot expect your co-parent to enforce the rules you keep at your home but you can sit down and speak with each other about what you can and can’t come to an agreement on when it comes to more important and key issues. For example, you and your co-parent may not agree on screen-time that is allowed in the home. Whilst you cannot force your co-parent to enforce your own rules, you can try to come to an agreement that is agreeable to both. However, there will be many times where you simply have to let go of your own rules and respect that your co-parent may have his/her own rules that you do not agree with. In some circumstances such as the example above, you may simply have to respect the difference, let go and move on.
- Get Organized: On a more practical level, you and your co-parent may consider scheduling regular “parenting dates” with each other to discuss anything and everything related to the children. This will encourage ongoing communication with one another and allow both parents to remain on the same page when it comes to the children. With that being said, it is important that both parents are organized so that both households run smoothly for the children and one tool that may be useful is a shared online calendar. This can keep track of everything related to the children including important dates, after-school activities, medical appointments, homework projects and more. This can also help minimize face-to-face or telephone discussions with a co-parent in those co-parenting situations where verbal communication is limited or difficult.
It is important to know that regardless of where you are in your divorce process, the transition is a difficult one and co-parenting is one aspect of a divorce which is a learning process. It is a skill that you and your co-parent can work on and learn about as time goes on and through shared experiences. If you have serious difficulties with your co-parenting arrangement, speak to your solicitor or a qualified health professional who can assist in the process either by providing their expertise or providing you with the resources you need.