Parents everywhere are rejoicing as they send their offspring back to school this fall. For some, this is a melancholy ritual because it means that all those custody agreements that have been relaxed during those warm summer months will have to be re-established and reinforced. While it can be tempting to commiserate with the kids that the good times are over, particularly if you are the parent whose time is being curtailed, resist that urge because a return to routine is every bit as important for mental and emotional well-being as it is to loosen the reins occasionally. This isn’t just true for the children, but also for you and your ex.
The second you begin preparing to return to “the schedule” you have hammered out, the sooner you can begin the process of returning to normalcy…and being able to rely on the plans that have been put into place by you both and/or the court. If this isn’t the first year you will be sending your child to school, it will be easier to navigate the drop offs and picks ups and all the minutiae and contingencies for things like parent teacher conferences and extracurricular activities. It will be considerably more complicated if this is the first time you are sending the kid(s) into the school system. Either way, parents should meet before the end of the summer to talk about the coming school year.
Technology has seemingly made the syncing of calendars and schedules so much easier, but we suggest getting identical paper calendars that you both can make notations on with details about your childcare schedule. You can both keep these calendars in the same place in your respective homes so that you and the kids will always know where to find it, and it becomes habit to consult it when making plans. Get into the habit of not finalizing schedule alterations, like play dates or after school activities, until you have both checked the schedule and, if the time in question is not YOUR allotted custody time, run it by your ex. This way, the kids will know to always check the calendar before they even ask you to go a friend’s house.
As we have mentioned many times before on this blog, when it comes to your kids, communication is key. The more effort you put into enforcing routine and stability, the more well adjusted your children, the less pushback you will get when their wishes can NOT be accommodated. This means, if you don’t get along with your child’s other parent, you still must make every effort to communicate with them, even if it means having your attorneys or mediators get involved. This is beneficial to you as well. After all, you are an adult with your own scheduling needs and it is important to hammer out a plan that you can rely on to see friends, take trips, go on dates, or even grocery shop in peace! You want to have time with the kids you love, but you also need to be able to realistically accommodate your life necessities as well.
By including your progeny in the discussions regarding the coming year-whether the whole family meets to go through the entire calendar week by week, or starting a texting chain between everyone concerned-once something is written on the both calendars, one and all can be held accountable for being aware of what the agenda is. Also, by having a physical account of where everyone is supposed to be and when, you will be more able to adjust that schedule in accordance with any hiccups or last-minute appointments that need to be added.
This should all be done before the summer ends. Waiting until the eleventh hour will only serve to cause chaos and confusion, which is the last thing you want associated with the beginning of school in your kids’ minds. The goal should always be to ease the transition from vacation to learning, giving your children the emotional confidence to begin each new chapter of education knowing that steps have been taken to ensure they will always be supervised, cared for, and loved no matter where they should find themselves. That is the beauty of the routine.