As A Co-parent, How To Keep In Touch With Your Child While He’s Not Home

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Separation is never easy and that’s doubly true when it comes to communicating with your child. If you’re a co-parent, there’s plenty of options for staying in touch with your child when he’s away. Modern technology has made communication easier than ever before!

It’s About More Than Technology

It’s completely natural to want to stay in regular contact with your children while they are away. That said, you’ll want to strike a balance between constant contact and unlimited freedom. Think about from your former spouse’s point of view: would you want your ex calling the kids every few hours when it’s ‘your’ turn?

The last thing you want to do is hover too closely. It’s co-parenting after all: let the kids have their time with their other parents! Allowing the children to stretch their legs with their co-parent is both normal and healthy.

The first step in keeping in touch with your children while they are away is to establish a set of ground rules with your former spouse. For example:

  • Decide whether you’ll opt for scheduled calls
  • Set limits (how much time spent communicating with the away parent is too much)
  • Decide how you’ll handle communication on longer visits

Schedule Regular Phone Calls

It might seem like sacrilege to the younger generations, but phones are for more than just texting. Setting up a regularly scheduled phone call for your children is a great way to remain a consistent fixture in their lives. For example, if you have a 50/50 custody agreement, a phone call every few days is usually more than enough.

Opt For A Video Call

Voice calls work wonders, but seeing someone’s face puts the conversation on an entirely new level. It’s never been easier to set up a video call — consider FaceTime, Skype, and Facebook Messenger — so feel free to embrace this technology. Your children will thank you for it!

Texting Is Consistent

Texting is a way of life and for good reason: it’s convenient! Regular contact via text is simple, flexible, and adequate for most pedestrian conversations. Texting is far less intense than a phone call and is inherently casual. As such, it’s great for keeping in touch on minor details (“How was the movie?”) and doesn’t detract from the co-parents time with the kids.

Of course, it can be tempting to overreach when it comes to texting and expect a constant flurry of messages. Try your best to avoid this — no one likes a helicopter parent — and remember that your ex’s time is just as valuable as yours. The more freedom and leeway you afford the children, the better the relationship.

Bring Your Former Partner Into The Mix

Imagine setting up a board game for a night in only to find your kids having a video chat with your former partner. Surprises like that are unwelcome on both sides of the co-parenting coin!

Take the time to introduce your co-parent to the ways in which technology can be used to keep in touch. Establishing firm boundaries is a great way to ensure that technology helps (and doesn’t detract) your parenting relationship. For example, try avoiding phone calls during overnight visits where you might induce a sense of homesickness. Likewise, avoid asking too much about your former partner during conversations: focus on the children, not your ex.

Keeping In Touch Shouldn’t Be A Chore

When it comes to staying in touch with your children while they are away from home, keep it casual. Talk to your former partner and establish a set of ground rules and go from there. Between phone calls, video chats, and texting, there’s plenty of ways to keep in touch.

Make sure to respect your co-parent’s parenting time and your children will love you all the more for it!

Encouraging Your Child to Go Back to School

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Unless you’ve recently found a functioning magic wand, getting your kids genuinely excited to go back to school might not be a realistic goal. It’s the rare kid who prefers math homework to sleeping in and playing outdoors, and everything’s a little more complicated for families of divorce. That doesn’t mean that this period has to be miserable for everyone. You and your kids can get through the back-to-school season in one piece, with a little preparation.

Get Parents on the Same Page

The start of the school year is a chaotic time for all families. Divorced and separated parents have extra challenges. Something as minor as communicating about a new school policy can be tough when you’re apart. If the kids sense that their parents aren’t on the same team about school stuff, it could add to their dread about going back to the classroom.
Both parents should read all communication from the school and raise any questions or concerns. Next, create a shared calendar that includes details like what time the kids wake up, eat and go to bed. This is especially useful if you have a strained relationship and prefer to communicate virtually. Discuss rules relating to screen time, homework time, food and socializing so you can (hopefully) create some basic ground rules around these things.
Does one parent lives too far away to be part of the kids’ day-to-day life? Coordinate with the school so that you both get all communication from teachers and staff. Still create that shared calendar, too. The remote parent should always know what’s going on with school. That way, he or she can back up your decisions and have meaningful conversations with the kids.

Adjust the Routines

Unless your family stays on a school schedule all year, back-to-school season calls for making some adjustments. Kids who have been waking up at 8 a.m. won’t be at their best if they’re suddenly required to get up at 6 a.m.
Prepare them for a smooth back-to-school transition by making minor adjustments to their schedules. Gradually shift bedtimes and wake-up times. Ask them to do 30 minutes of reading per day. Require them to pick out their clothes at night. If little kids are eating lunch at home right now, start serving it in lunch boxes to get them used to eating that way.
Again, getting your co-parent on board is one of the most important factors in determining how smoothly this goes. You could spend all week inching up bedtimes for your school-bound kids. All that effort won’t matter if your ex lets them stay up until midnight the next week.

Give Them Something to Look Forward To

Some kids struggle more with school than others, so it’s disingenuous to promise them that they’re going to love going back to school. But what you can do is give them some positive association with the idea of going to school again.
You might devise a reward system tied to performance, which allows them to earn things they really want by making a good effort in school. In the week leading up to the first day, wrap a series of small toys or gifts and give kids one each day. Get slightly more exciting first-day-of-school gifts and organize an after-school party on the first day. Plan a fun activity for the first weekend of school, too. Even just a pajamas-and-movies party at home could be a special treat.
If all else fails, help your glum kids get some perspective. Tell them that they have to get through school on their way to the rest of their lives. Talk about what they want to do when they’re adults, and why going to school is a necessary step on that ladder. Remembering that school is just temporary should comfort a kid who’s dreading going back.

Cooking With Kids: 3 Simple Recipes to Try

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Getting kids involved with food preparation has tons of benefits. Cooking with kids helps them practice math, learn to love healthy foods and develop self-care skills that they’ll need someday. Plus, it gives you all a chance to spend quality time together.
Choosing recipes that will work for you and your kids depends on their ages, your kitchen setup and your family’s dietary restrictions. These simple recipe ideas are a good starting point.

Sweet Smoothies

Technically, of course, there’s no cooking involved with making smoothies. That’s what makes this is a perfect first project for little ones or kids who are new to the kitchen. Each child can choose and prep the ingredients for his or her smoothie. Offer a few base ingredients, like plain Greek yogurt or juice, plus a bunch of add-ins. Bananas, berries, peaches, mango, nut butters, kale, spinach, mint, tofu, avocado, milk, cinnamon and cocoa powder are all potential options.
Have kids do things like wash and cut fruit, measure ingredients and add them to the blender. Start with equal parts of your base ingredient and add-ins, add a handful of ice and make adjustments from there. An adult may need to operate the blender itself. Let kids taste the smoothie after each addition of a new ingredient. They’ll learn a lot about flavors and balance.

Crowd-Pleasing Pizzas

Making pizza dough from scratch takes hours from start to finish. If the family schedule allows, do it anyway. Homemade dough is simple to assemble and most yeast packages have a specific recipe. Kids can measure dry ingredients, mix yeast with water, then stir and knead the dough.
Of course, cooking with kids takes enough time as it is. If you want, opt for a store-bought crust, or use naan or packaged bread dough. Kids can make their own tomato sauce using canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, a little tomato paste and seasonings including oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes or until the onions are soft.
Finally, let kids prepare their own pizzas. They can roll the dough, spread the sauce, sprinkle on shredded cheese and pick their own vegetable toppings. In most ovens, cooking a pizza until the cheese is browned only takes about 15 minutes.

Easy Grilled Skewers

Cooking with kids shouldn’t take hours or they’ll get restless. Having them make their own kebabs or skewers is a quick way to get kids fed. They can play with their food, and each kid can customize a meal that he or she will actually eat.
Cut chicken or another meat into ice-cube-size chunks. Cut hearty vegetables like peppers, onions, zucchini and sweet potato into chunks of the same size. Whole cherry tomatoes work too. Let kids season the ingredients. Just salt and pepper might be enough for one kid’s tastes; another might prefer to rub meat with a spicy marinade or a sticky soy sauce glaze.
Next, let kids push the pieces onto simple wooden or metal skewers. You or another adult should handle the actual grilling, unless you’re cooking with an older teen. Simply cook the skewers on the grill or grill pan, turning each skewer every few minutes to cook all sides. Once the meat is cooked to the safe level of doneness, they’re ready to eat.
Kids can complete a meal of grilled skewers by mixing up simple dipping sauces. Try homemade ranch made with Greek yogurt, a sweet-and-sour honey lime dip or a smooth cheese sauce with melted cheddar.
Alternately, use this prep idea to entice kids to eat more fruit. Have them push chunks of pineapple, peach and banana chunks onto their skewers. Grill them until they’re lightly browned and have kids make a dipping sauce of yogurt, orange juice and a pinch of brown sugar.

Travel Plans for Separated Parents: Navigating Holidays and Joint Custody

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Of all the potential conflicts that co-parents have to contend with, vacation and travel schedules are one of the trickiest. You might have a dream trip in mind – but if the other parent objects to the timing and itinerary, someone’s going to end up being unhappy. Co-parents who don’t handle this conflict well risk making the kids miserable and missing out on incredible memories.

First: Consult the Experts

If you and your ex have a formal custody agreement, it’s essential to refer to it before finalizing any plans. Your specific agreement and the custody laws in your state and/or country will play a big role in determining what happens around holidays and joint custody. This is an important step not just because of the legal issues, but also because of the potential for conflict here. If the potential travel plans aren’t allowed, hearing that from an attorney or legal document might help keep the disappointed parent from blaming the other parent.

Next: Analyze Your Proposed Plans

Taking the kids for a two-month trip around the world would be a life-changing, unforgettable experience for all of you – but it would be unfair to the parent who normally has the kids every other week. When there’s some discord between you around holidays and joint custody, bringing your ex a reasonable proposal is critical. Taking the other parent’s feelings and schedule into account demonstrates respect and a willingness to work together.
Analyze your holiday plans from the other person’s perspective. For example, are you planning to spend a ton of money on an extravagant trip, while the other parent struggles to make ends meet? In that case, the ex might feel resentful or be nervous about the kids preferring time with the richer parent. Making a more modest plan might help win them over. Or, if you want to take the kids away for three weeks and you know your ex would miss them terribly, amend your proposal to two weeks.
Also consider what your co-parent will miss out on with the kids while they’re away. If you’ll be taking them during time that she would normally be with them, propose a way for her to make up that time. Be prepared to trade something that’s important to you, too. If you want to take the kids over one of your ex’s summer weeks, you might have to give up Christmas week to get permission.

Finally: Make an Appeal

Instead of approaching holiday scheduling braced for a fight, approach it like a friendly conversation. (That said, email works fine for this if you have a strained relationship!) Even if you already mentioned your holiday plans, go back to your co-parent now to have a conversation about details.
Lay out your entire holiday proposal. Provide an itinerary. If you made any modifications for your ex’s benefit, explain those too. Be sure to build safety and communication plans into your holiday proposal: provide emergency contact numbers, propose a daily video chat call, lay out rules you’ll enforce on the trip, and so forth.
If your co-parent is resistant to your plans, appeal to their sympathy by explaining why these holiday plans are important to you. If there are specific benefits for the kids, point those out too. Will they get a chance to practice a second language? Learn about another culture? Get to connect with a rarely-seen grandparent? Help your ex understand that these holiday plans aren’t a ploy to hurt them or take the kids away, but that they have real value for the kids.

Summer Holidays: Managing Conflicting Days Off

Summer holidays and joint custody - 2ouses

Holidays can be tricky for parents with joint custody. After all, many companies do not let you take vacations whenever you want! If you’re struggling to figure out what to do with your children during your holiday (but not theirs), this article is for you.

The Old Standby: The Visitation Schedule

Your custodian agreement likely has a clearly delineated visitation schedule. That said, it’s rare to see a custodial agreement that doesn’t include flexibility for trades, swaps, or other scheduling changes. If you’re struggling to figure out how to handle having your holiday when the kids are still in school, this is the first move.

summer holidays
Mom and son

The more you communicate with your former partner about your desire to spend time with the kids, the better. Be open to swapping weekends or even entire holiday seasons if that’s what it takes. For example, if you’re forced to take your vacation the month before the summer holidays begin, ask to swap possession during those few weeks. If your former partner is proving reticent, consider sweetening the pot: throw in some extended weekend visits.

The goal here is to work within the confines of the existing joint custody agreement to produce the best result for everyone. The more you can achieve with talking, the better.

Bring the Kids Along (Virtually)

If your children aren’t home (and you are taking your holidays), use your free time! For example, consider asking your former partner if it’s possible to do regular video calls with the kids. If physical possession is out of the question, bring the kids along in a virtual sense.

camera and holidays
A vintage camera with vintage photos

Nearly everyone has some combination of smartphone, laptop, or tablet computer. It’s easy as pie to video call the kids daily while you’re off surfing in Hawaii or exploring the streets of Europe. If the time zones don’t line up, or if the kids are busy, record short videos of your vacation adventures. The kids can watch them when they have the time and you’ll remain a constant presence in their life.

Consider Offering Your Own Time

Parenting is the busiest profession in the world, bar none. Taking the kids from soccer practice to band practice to chess club takes time that your former partner may not have. If you’d prefer to spend some of your summer holidays with your kids, offer to make your former partner’s life a bit easier.

Holidays as mono parent
Dad and his daughter at the sea.

Of course, this depends entirely on your joint custody agreement. Your current relationship with your ex certainly comes into play as well. That said, an amicable offer goes a long way: offering to take the kids to soccer practice (followed by ice cream) might give your former spouse a few precious hours they desperately need.

Talk Early, Talk Often

It’s a sad reality that joint custody parenting often focuses more on managing your relationship with your former partner than anything else. The more you talk, the better the outcome for those pesky holiday schedules. Take the time to work out a clear summer holiday schedule as far in advance as possible. The sooner you know there will be a scheduling conflict during your holiday, the better!

Managing Summer Holidays

It’s not fun to find out that you’re forced to take vacation days away from your children. If it happens, take the time to communicate your desires to the other parent and see if an agreement can be reached. If there’s no way to change the vacation schedule, see if it’s possible to volunteer some time here and there. And, of course, phone calls, video chats, and short video clips never go amiss.

It’s not an ideal situation, but use these tips and make the best of it!

Getting Along with Everyone in a Blended Family

Getting Along with Everyone in a Blended Family

Anyone can start a blended family. Actually getting everyone to blend is a bigger challenge.

When you become the spouse or partner of a parent, it’s entirely normal to feel a mix of emotions. You might be excited to have these kids in your life, and anxious about how to not step on the toes of their other parent. Maybe you’re worried about how to discipline the kids, or nervous they won’t get along with your family. Your top priority, though, is probably to form a loving and respectful relationship with the new kids in your life.

As one of the adults at the head of a new blended family, it’s up to you to nurture the relationships you have with your partner’s kids. A few simple strategies, and a lot of patience, will help you get there.

Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations

Kids need consistency and boundaries to feel safe and secure. Establishing boundaries will also protect you from having to make up rules and punishments on the fly, which creates tension.

First, talk to the other parent about the kind of household you want to create. Make a list of house rules that are important to both of you, and talk about what the consequences will be when someone breaks a rule. Next, bring the family together to talk about the rules. Give everyone a chance to talk. Ask kids to share the things they feel they need from you to feel safe and comfortable. Ideally, you’ll schedule regular family get-togethers so everyone has a chance to air any grievances rather than letting them fester.

Find Individual Bonding Experiences

To bring your entire blended family together, focus on strengthening the individual relationships between all of you. Find common activities or interests that you can share with each child. If one kid loves sports, buy season tickets for a local baseball or basketball team. If another is into reading, make a point to schedule weekly library trips for the two of you.

If you have kids of your own, encourage them to form individual relationships with their new step-siblings. Even if it’s just asking a pair of them to join you for a grocery-shopping trip, give them plenty of chances to spend one-on-one time together.

Find Time for Fun

Blending two households and establishing new dynamics is stressful! But if months go by and the kids don’t see you do anything but worry and talk about rules, they’re not going to be inclined to bond with you.

Find unexpected ways to inject some fun and laughter into your shared life. Announce a surprise beach trip one day, or decide that the first Saturday of every month will be a family fun day. Play silly board games and ask kids to show you their favorite funny movies.

Give Kids Some Space

Kids had a whole life with their parent before you arrived on the scene. Part of forming a bonded blended family is showing each other respect for your individual pasts. So be careful to allow plenty of space and time for kids and your partner to have together. Encourage them to have meals alone and to take trips by themselves, to show the kids that you’re not trying to wedge yourself into their relationship.

It’s also important to not expect too much, too soon. Hopefully the kids will grow to love and trust you, and each other, but you can’t rush those things. It might take years to establish a really close and loving relationship. That’s worth the wait.

A happy Christmas with separated parents

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Christmas is a special time for children and therefore for their parents too. This holiday, which traditionally involves the family unit, can be difficult for separated parents, especially when their children are not with them for Christmas. We have compiled a list of frequently asked questions by co-parents during the run-up to December 24 and solutions to some of them in order to revive the magic of Christmas for them in their own way.

Who will have custody of the children this year?

Divorced parents are often very fussy about compliance with childcare during the holiday season. To avoid a family crisis that would disturb children, it is better to update your  custody calendar  several months in advance.  Sandrine says: ”  My children will spend Christmas Eve and Christmas day with me and my family this year.   It alternates every year with my ex-husband and I think it is very suitable for everyone because nobody feels cheated “. In all cases, do not ask children to choose which parent they want to spend Christmas with as this would undermine their sense of loyalty towards the excluded parent.

What gift will I give to my daughter or my son?

After a separation, you may feel guilty towards your children, or jealous towards the former spouse. Subsequently in some families, there is a competition for who can give the most expensive gift for Christmas.  The relationship with the co-parent is not a competition  and the child can quickly understand the mechanism and  take advantage of this weakness  to get what he or she wants. David explains: “My ex-wife does not have the same financial means as me, which creates some tension with the approach of Christmas or birthdays.  After a few unfortunate episodes, we made an effort to consult each other before the holidays to prevent our daughter from being a witness to our differences.  Sometimes we offer a bigger, common gift.”

Should I invite my ex to the party for the benefit of my children?

Why not, if you still share some affection . But it should not raise false hopes.  A child can lose his bearings when his separated parents meet and give the impression of a family unit. Be careful too about the organizational nightmare that this can create with in step families: what about new family members and their children?

This is my first Christmas divorced with kids

Unconsciously or not, many separated parents are hit by nostalgia which can invade Christmas. Jean-François has become habituated to inviting his two teenagers to a restaurant with his new girlfriend: ” I found myself alone, desperate to organize a perfect Eve.  It quickly turned into a culinary fiasco. Since then, I reserve a good restaurant, and on Christmas Eve we go out”. Martine has made a clean sweep of her former life: “It reminded me too much of old memories.  I decided to change all the dishes, table decoration and especially the menu. Finish the game, and flash garlands”. Separation, it changes people. It is normal for family traditions to evolve to better match the new life of each. And if you feel better as well,  the children will be the ones to benefit.

This is my first Christmas divorced without my children

Separated parents agree that this is a difficult moment to go through. “After a few years, one tends to become experienced” says Sandra, who found tricks to not spend Christmas alone. ”  I made new friends who are mostly like me.  We take the opportunity to meet on Christmas Eve and have a good time without getting depressed.  I know my children are with their father so I do not let myself worry about them “. You have to reassure yourself: there will be other Christmases you’ll spend with the children and we have the whole year to spend with them. This is the moment to take care of yourself.

And you? Does this time of year particularly affect you after your separation? What are your experiences or your new Christmas traditions? Share your experiences here

From ex-spouse to friend: Reinventing relationships after divorce

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Your marital relationship is over, but what about your relationship with your in-laws, their relationship with your children, or even your relationship with your ex-spouse’s new lover? What is healthy and appropriate? Since no one has written the new rules and codes of social conduct for relationships engendered by divorce, we asked some experts to share their insights with us.

Everyone knows at least one divorce horror story, but we seldom hear about people who have established friendly post-divorce associations with each other. “Did you hear that Hugh and Liz are getting along well these days?” just isn’t news. Armed with their version of divorce hell, the skeptics tell us it’s impossible for a divorced couple to make peace and become friends. They outtalk the quiet and peaceful believers — perhaps because people who are doing just fine don’t feel the need to vent. “If every divorce were a ‘War of the Roses’, there would be blood on the streets!” points out Barbara Quick, author of Still Friends: Living Happily Ever After…Even if your Marriage Falls Apart.

Luckily, it’s never too late to make peace. With determination and good intentions, you can overcome the anger, grief, and sadness of losing a marriage and eventually — believe it or not — achieve friendship. Whether or not you want to be “friends” with your ex is a decision in itself, but if you have children together, finding a way to be amicable with your co-parent makes life a lot easier. Your former in-laws don’t have to disappear with the marriage either, especially if you’ve always enjoyed a good relationship with them. Unfortunately there’s no rule book for cultivating civility with your ex-spouse, your former in-laws, or even your ex’s new spouse — so we asked several experts — including people who have managed to create friendly post-divorce relationships — for some guidance. Here’s what they had to say:

Ex-spouse, New Friend?

When the divorce process has pitted you and your spouse against each other, training you to view each other as enemies, any form of future alliance can seem impossible. But if you have children, your ex-spouse is still your co-parent. “It’s difficult for separated partners to remain productive co-parents when the legal process is making them enemies,” says Lillian Messinger, a Toronto marriage counselor who specializes in post-divorce relationships. It takes a lot of maturity to make amends with the person who has torn apart your life, or who has been a monster in court. But just as it takes two to determine the marriage dynamic, it takes two to make a good — or bad — divorce. Quick emphasizes that “every couple has their own relationship dance. All you have to do is change your part in the dance.” If you change your behavior, your relationship will change, too.

Mark and Sara (not their real names) were married for 12 years, and have now been divorced for three. “The first couple years of our marriage was pretty good, but it went downhill rapidly,” says Sara. “For the last six years, we communicated in snarls, or through our son, Peter. A friend encouraged us to try mediation, and during the process we started to really talk for the first time in years. The mediator encouraged us to remember what we used to like about each other as we established our co-parenting relationship, and how to listen and ‘mine for the gold’ in what we said to each other.” Both Sara and Mark report that their relationship is better post-divorce than it ever was when they were married. “We are much better as friends than as a couple,” says Mark. “Some of the things that really bug you in a spouse just don’t matter in a friend. For Peter’s sake, we were committed to working on our co-parenting relationship, and the happy side-effect is that we really like each other these days — which wasn’t the case during our marriage.”

However well or poorly you knew your former spouse, this will be an exercise in re-acquaintance. Forming a relationship with your ex is entirely separate from the process of ending a marriage; if you work through the process to achieve your “emotional divorce,” you can cultivate something entirely new. Your old relationship is over; take the steps to heal so that you can invest your energy elsewhere.

Grieving the death of a marriage is like mourning any other loss: it hurts a lot, and you get through it minute by minute. The trick is to stay on the path to recovery, not stopping at the first challenge. In her research for Still Friends, Quick found that a pattern emerged among those who had successfully recovered from divorce. The process that begins with anger and grieving eventually leads to healing, forgiveness, and insight. “Acknowledge the stage you’re at, and allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. Most people get stuck in anger and grieving,” says Quick, adding that “Everyone has a unique healing process. Some people go through it on their hands and knees, spending months at every stage, others go through it at high speed.”

Healing and moving on can take years, but communication with your ex may have to continue both during and after your divorce. If you have children, you will have to discuss the details of their lives. Whether weekly or monthly, these chats are going to develop a personality. They might be draining, dreadful, stressful, infuriating, and frustrating — or they could be just fine.

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Managing Life as a Single Parent after Divorce

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When a divorced couple has children, life can get very complicated. Each parent is now on their own and suddenly realize all of the small things they did not notice when they had the other parent to back them up. Parents of babies and toddlers are tested by late nights and early mornings, with no one to alternate sleep, feedings, changing, and difficult nights with. Mothers and fathers of school aged children have to handle the morning routine: getting the kids to school, meeting with teachers, and driving the kids to after-school activities, all on their own. Managing life after divorce as a parent is not easy, but life will get back to normal much faster if steps are taken to deal with the challenges, instead of just hoping for a solution.

Struggles of Single Parents

Going through a divorce and living with divorce are very complicated life events which statistics show that many people in this country go through. Below are the two main challenges for single parents:

Childcare

This can be tricky one when the other parent doesn’t want to play nice. Developing a set schedule, if at all possible, for visitations will make it a little easier to figure out childcare. After visitation is established, each parent needs to find their own sitters or agree on one childcare or babysitter for both schedules. Both parents should have their own backup in case help bails at the last moment. This will keep the other parent from having to cancel their own plans to watch the children.

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By Andrew Miller for familyblawg.com

Back to School: Better Organizing for an Easier Co-Parenting Relationship

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Back-to-school season means folders, notebooks, and pencil holders are in every store, and with good reason. It’s a lot easier to stay organized when you start organized. There’s just something about new classes and new teachers that inspires everyone to start fresh. Let this carry over into your co-parenting relationship with these five tips on how to stay organized and keep communication flowing.

1. Be Proactive

You certainly don’t have to tell your child’s teacher the details of your divorce or current co-parenting status. However, it is important to make the teacher aware of anything particular that they will need to do. For example, some divorced parents may not be able to attend the same parent-teacher conference due to differing work schedules. Letting the teacher know about these things early in the year — or even before school starts if possible — shows that you’re invested in your child’s education and willing to do what’s needed for their success.

2. Streamline Communication

Having children in school comes with a lot of paperwork. Field trip permission slips, parent volunteering options, fundraisers, and communicable illness notifications are just a few of the things that can come up multiple times throughout the school year. Make things simple for you and the other parent by keeping track of important notes and notices on 2houses. You can store important documents — such as fundraisers or science fair announcements — so you don’t have to worry about it being lost in transit. The calendar feature on the app lets you put parent schedules — such as vacations or days you’re working late — and your child’s schedule in one place. And the journal tool lets you share important reminders or just fun anecdotes and pictures where both parents can easily access it when they need to.

3. Double-Check Everything

Even in the best of co-parenting situations, divorced parents are juggling a lot, and it’s easy for things to get left out of messages or misunderstood. If something sounds off — like you thought Donuts with Dad was Friday but the other parent thinks it’s Thursday — double-check before assuming the other person is wrong. Most schools today have parent portals where you can easily get information directly from the source.

4. Keep Things the Same as Possible Between Houses

Children have a lot to deal with during the school year. There are tests, daily homework, social issues to navigate, and sports/extracurricular activities. And during all of this, your child is still making huge developments physically and emotionally. All of these can increase stress levels. One way you can reduce this and help your child and yourself stay organized is to try to keep things consistent between houses. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be exactly the same. However, working with your ex to find a schedule that works for both of you — such as homework gets done right after school before dinner or the parent checks the school notice folder every evening — creates stability for your child and more peace for you.

5. Make Respect and Compassion Priorities

You already know that good co-parenting is about respecting your ex as a parent of your child. Remember that your children shouldn’t have to bear any unnecessary burdens just because they have divorced parents. This may mean sending reminders to the other parent without sarcasm or passive aggressive phrasing or just reminding yourself that they might have had a bad day when they’re short with you. Thinking of — and treating — your fellow co-parent as you would a respected colleague can go a long way toward a smooth co-parenting relationship and an easier, more organized school year.