A new school year is starting and this often means new parenting plans for divorced parents who are co-parenting.  This is an opportunity to build on what has worked for both of you in the past and let go of arrangements that haven’t worked.  Take a moment to consider how last year worked.  What did you like?  What did you wish was different?  How did your children respond to the plan?  What did they say they wish was different?  Use the new school year as a chance to become more collaborative in your relationship with the other parent.

Here are some questions for both of you to consider.

1)      Are there other easier ways to increase the parenting time that each of you spends with your children? 

This could include attend school or extracurricular events together if you haven’t in the past.  Maybe a change in the transportation arrangements would allow each of you more valuable conversation with the children.

Try alternating roles.  If one of you typically manages the medical and dental appointments, try switching this arrangement for one year and see how it works.

2)      What is your favorite activity to do with your children?  What are your children’s favorite activities with each of you?

Ensure that both of you have an opportunity to spend time with your kids doing these activities on a regular basis.  Remember, that your kids need both of you.  They will be happy and healthy if each of you can support them to have a close relationship with the other parent.

3) What has changed this year?  Are the school schedules different?  Is someone attending a new school?  Maybe one parent has a different job and can now pick up the children earlier?

 Take advantage of any changes to improve the parenting plan to increase the benefit to your children.

3)      Evaluate the number of structured activities that your children have.  Consider if you can reduce these to allow for more unstructured play and time with each of you.

Check out this link for more info.

As adults, we often forget how to play.  If you have forgotten, redevelop this skill by sitting on the floor with your children, and/or joining their favorite game.  Letting a child direct his or her play with you will help build a strong connection between you.  If you start with 30-60 minutes a few times a week, you may be surprised at how much this improves your child’s openness to you.

4)      If you and the other parent aren’t ready to have this kind of conversation alone, consider hiring a family mediator to help you tweak or improve the current parenting plan for the benefit of your kids and yourselves.

See The Benefits of Mediation on this website.