Are you co-parenting school-aged kids? Don’t let your child become an academic statistic. Many studies have shown that children of divorce often earn lower grades than their peers whose parents are still together. The onset of divorce is certainly disruptive. Your child’s usual schedule, living space, and family routines are suddenly all in question. As such, it is no wonder children lose focus during divorce. So do their parents.
But there are many things you can do and avoid doing as you’re co-parenting school-aged kids to encourage your children’s continued academic success. Let’s first look at two combative behaviors that co-parents engage in which can undo their children’s ability to be successful in school following a parental split. Then I’ll share my list of DO’s and DON’Ts to help you and your co-parent stay on track with your child’s education.
Co-parenting School-aged Kids: Combative Approaches
Co-parents Who Check Out on Their Kid’s Education
When parents are going through divorce or a breakup, they are distracted, emotionally distraught, and consumed by their own concerns. For some parents it is just too much to also think about co-parenting school-aged kids. They can’t or don’t step back from their own problems to ensure their child is still fully engaged in school. Some parental activities from which co-parents disengage include:
- Not making sure their child’s homework is completed
- Failing to attend curriculum night or teacher conferences
- Allowing the child to skip school for emotional health reasons
- Taking the child out of school when moving households or to attend court hearings
- Failing to monitor their children’s grades or intervene if grades slip
- Not asking their child about their school activities
- Forgoing school performances, parties, and sporting events
- Stepping back from school parent volunteer activities
- Not telling their child’s teacher what is going on with the family
Checking out on your children’s academic concerns sends the message that it isn’t a priority. As such, the child may likewise deprioritize schoolwork and academic success. This will undoubtedly reduce their future potential, if not derail it.
Co-parents Who Withhold Academic Information from their Co-parent
Some parents are more comfortable being in complete control and shut the other parent out intentionally from information about their child’s education. Some avoid these communications for fear they will turn negative, accusative, or just plain uncomfortable. Others simply don’t think about it.
Schools are beginning to recognize that all parents do not live together and are doing more to accommodate the needs of parents and children living in two homes. Some school systems now provide communication to both parents. But this is not always the case. When a school doesn’t provide dual communication for parents who live separately, the residential parent (the parent of record according to the school system) is the only one who receives information. As such, it will be up to them to ensure the other parent gets this information. The nonresidential parent could miss out on:
- Report cards
- Test scores
- Disciplinary notices
- Attendance records
- School schedules
- School photo purchasing
- Sports schedules including tryouts and equipment needs
- Special events
- Volunteer opportunities which allow parents to be more involved with the school
- Academic and other school-related matters, especially when your child may be having problems (Wouldn’t you rather have help?)
Parents need to ask how they expect their co-parent to effectively support their child’s education without this information. Moreover, the custodial parent should consider how they might feel if they missed out on opportunities such as attending a special performance or buying school pictures. In fact, do they really want their child to endure the sadness of the other parent being absent from their special performances?
I’m sure some moms or dads don’t bother to provide this information citing that their ex has never bothered in the past anyway. Maybe this is true. But enabling them doesn’t help anyone. In fact, it just shifts the blame to the parent who failed to offer the information.
Could the other parent seek it out from the school? Sure. But we are dealing with a government entity here and they’re not exactly positioned for flexibility. Wouldn’t it just be easier and in everyone’s best interest to offer to your co-parent all available information? If at that point they check out, this matter should be addressed separately and directly with them. But at least you won’t be their excuse. Remove that obstacle for them and for your child.
Co-parenting School-aged Kids: Collaborative Approaches
Most parents co-parenting school-aged kids want their children to succeed in school. And sure, some care about education more than others. Whether you are considered the primary parent by the school and teachers or you aren’t, if you want what’s best for your child, you must do what is necessary to support your child’s education.
- DO remain or become actively involved with your child’s education after you separate from the other parent.
- DO let both school administrators and teachers know if you and the other parent are divorced or separated and if the child spends time living at each home.
- DO ask school administrators and teachers if they can send all communications to both parents.
- If not, and you are the primary parent, DO make arrangements to provide the other parent with everything you receive.
- If not, and you are not the primary parent, DO ask the other parent to provide this information to you.
- DO stay on top of things with your child. Ask them about homework, tests, school relationships, what they are struggling with, and those things that they find exciting.
- DO attend your child’s school events as much as possible. If you can stomach it, sit with your co-parent, and use it as an opportunity to bond over the common interest you share in your child.
- DO participate in volunteer opportunities when possible. This will strengthen your bond with the school community, other parents, and your children.
- DON’T expect your child to provide their other parent with school information.
- DON’T leave everything to the other parent just because they handled all educational matters when you were together.
- DO talk to the other parent if you notice warning signs pointing to physical, emotional, mental, or behavioral concerns with your child. With the two of you working together, you can both share the burden and contribute to helping solve whatever problems your child may be facing.
- DO reinforce the importance of education to your child to make sure they know you consider it a priority.
- DO discuss school-related expenses and how they will be covered with your co-parent. Be sure to include in the conversation how unexpected school expenses will be handled. What communication is expected? How will the cost be split? How will it all be tracked?
- If you are not the primary parent contact with the school, DO talk to school administrators, teachers, counselors, and your child’s other parent to establish plans for them to provide you with all information pertaining to your child’s education.
Co-parenting School-aged Kids: The Co-parenting Code
As you consider how to collaborate with your co-parent on education, here are some questions to keep your behavior aligned to the Golden Rule.
- How can you best support your child’s academic success?
- How can you help your child’s other parent support your child’s academic success?
- How can you best enlist the help of educators in supporting your co-parenting circumstance?
- Do you consider your co-parent an ally in your child’s education?
- Know that it is far more likely that your child will consider their education a priority if you do. They follow your lead and model your behaviors. Have you told your child how important their education is to you?
Are you co-parenting and want to enjoy less-stressful, more productive interactions with your co-parent? Check out my articles, interviews, and award winning #1 bestselling book, Combative to Collaborative: The Co-parenting Code, available on Amazon in paperback, eBook, or audio book.