July 20, 2022
BY: Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O'Cathain & O'Cathain
Yes, it’s still summer: there’s still long, hot days at the pool, no homework, and, hopefully, ice cream before bedtime.
It’s also nearly August: which means Labor Day is around the corner. More and more schools, in fact, start their year prior to the unofficial end of summer. So that means, like it or not, it’s time to talk about going back to school. Because soon enough there will be a fall chill in the air, football will start, and, before you know it, it’s Halloween time.
Why do we advocate talking about going back to school so early? Because chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re either thinking about divorce, separated, in the process of a divorce— or a co-parent who is, in fact, divorced. And as a firm with experienced family lawyers we continually stress on this blog, the key to healthy co-parenting relationships are communication and time.
Communication because there are many factors with children returning to school: a non-summertime routine. Let’s face it, school is an ecosystem for our children, and that ecosystem is more complex than ever.
That means you need to talk respectfully with your co-parent. The greatest assist you could give yourself in doing so would be time. Time for you all to work out your disagreements. Time to get on the same page. Time to consult your child and figure out the logistics of the return to school, while there’s still time.
So, here’s a list of topics you may want to review with your co-parent well in advance of your child returning to school:
- Transportation: Are you children walking? (What about when the weather turns cold?) Taking the bus? Are they being driven, and if so, by who? If you are utilizing a bus service, is there an extra cost? (And if so, who is paying for that?) According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 62% of families have both parents working. Transportation needs to be discussed as soon as possible.
- Aftercare: The same with aftercare. Very few jobs end their day with the school day, and while remote work is still very popular, the issue of who is caring for the children after school is a big one. Are there extra costs for using the school’s after care program? Does one or both parties need a nanny? Who is covering the costs involved?
- School supplies: Shopping for new school supplies can be a lot of fun, but there are two main things to consider here: time (so you’re not Amazon Prime-ing everything!) and budget. Talk with your co-parent; make sure you’re on the same page for who’s paying for what, and what it costs.
- Extracurricular activities: Be it track or the drama club, do you and your co-parent agree with what activities your child should be doing? And, has the cost for such been budgeted for?
- School safety: Unfortunately, this has only increased in past years. Talk with your family, about the school’s plans for active shooter drills, and what’s best for the physical safety— and mental health— of your child.
- Homework: What’s expected of your child? Oddly in school these days it can often be that too much homework is assigned, throwing the at-home family life balance off. Talk with your child and your co-parent; make an action plan for how to deal with homework as the school years grind on. (Are there certain subjects a co-parent is better at?)
- Pandemic: Are your children vaccinated, and up to date on their shots? What’s your school’s quarantine and/or masking policy? While, thankfully, the pandemic has receded, it’s worth discussing with school officials and your family to know the guidelines going into the year.
- Social Media: Does your child have a smartphone? Are they allowed to have a social media account, and if so, have you discussed with them what’s appropriate to post (and what should remain private)? So much of social media usage for children these days unfortunately dovetails with bullying, and it’s worth discussing before a new school year begins.
- Friends: Which brings us, naturally, to friends (and, depending upon your child’s age, frenemies). Talk with your child and try to gently level-set their expectations about popularity and friendship for this new year. And when a new friend arrives at your house, don’t be afraid to talk with your co-parent about the behavior you may notice in your child as a result, both positive and negative.
Everyone at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC wishes you, your children, and your family a safe, healthy and happy school year that creates wonderful memories for years to come!