Keeping up with children is hard. With kids now returning to school, knowing what supplies to buy and what fashion statements to avoid is a challenge for every parent. When a family has divorced, there are extra challenges looming. Co-parents need to agree on budget, timing, schedules and more.

In a previous post, we wrote about the unique stresses that your child might be experiencing as he or she returns to class. There are also many things that you need to think about as parents, starting with back to school shopping, but also the different school-related issues that will come up during the year.

Co-parenting usually means cooperation

Most couples who have divorced struggle with communication. Maybe you use apps designed specifically so you don’t have to talk to each other; perhaps you get along with your ex better than you have in years and you can coordinate over the phone or even go shopping together. Every family has a new dynamic after divorce, whether the ink on your paperwork is still wet or if you settled into a post-divorce routine years ago.

In order to improve co-parenting communication, it’s ideal to plan ahead for whatever might occur during the school year. A few items to discuss and prepare for include:

  • Back to school shopping in stores
  • Setting a budget and determining who will pay for supplies
  • Planning for extra-curricular activities and related fees
  • Planning a schedule for those activities and how it might interfere with custody
  • Knowing who will attend parent-teacher conferences
  • Understanding which parent will respond to disciplinary issues or emergencies

Know how you will respond when situations arise

Life as a parent is never predictable, but you can avoid confusion and confrontation by planning in advance. While it is not necessary to micromanage the school year, understanding each parent’s roles will make changes easier to manage and reduce the stress on you, your co-parent and, most important of all, your child.

While it is important to know who will go to parent-teacher conferences and who will respond to a call from the school nurse, it’s equally important that you are prepared for the little things. What happens if both you and your ex show up for a basketball game to support your child. Will you sit together or will it be awkward? What if your co-parent does not enforce a strict bedtime?

If cooperation with your ex is not possible, it may be necessary to work with a family law attorney. Being a parent is one of life’s hardest and most rewarding jobs. It is also always changing. Preparation is paramount to minimizing stress—both for yourself and, consequently, for your children as well.