Children walking to school

Back to School and Time-Sharing

Once again the summer has quickly passed us by and it’s time for the school year to begin again. It is an exciting and often stressful time as children begin a new year with new classes, new teachers and sometimes new schools. For children of divorced parents, there can be some additional stress. Of course, parents who place the children first can make it much less stressful.

These days we are seeing more equal time-sharing between mom and dad. This also means equal responsibilities for each parent as well. In an intact marriage, parents usually assume certain roles and assist each other. In a one-parent household, there are no longer defined roles. Mom and Dad must each make sure that they get the children up on time, ready on time, perhaps pack lunches and most importantly complete homework assignments. Communication between parents is the key to a successful school year. Each parent must realize that they are on the same team and they should not be looking for a “gotcha” moment. Each should be ready to assist each other rather than try and find fault to be used in a court proceeding. Joint parenting is not a contest; Mom vs. Dad. It is an attempt to have both parents do what’s best for the child as opposed to try and prove who may be the better parent.

The most common equal time-sharing schedule is two nights with one parent (Monday and Tuesday) and two nights with the other parent (Wednesday and Thursday); with the weekend (Friday to Monday) being rotated from week to week. A set schedule such as this gives a child some stability and doesn’t cause him/her to wonder where he/she will be sleeping from day today. Of course, communication between parents is still necessary. Class projects, homework and school events must be known to each parent. Parents should not rely on their children to deliver this information. Often, teachers will be accommodating and provide duplicate information so each parent is aware of assignments and future school events. Shared Parental Responsibility requires shared information. Sometimes I encounter parents who are so angry with each other that their focus is on the other parent’s possible shortcomings rather than working together to assist the children. Unfortunately, emotions sometimes interfere with common sense.

It is difficult to successfully maintain an equal time-sharing schedule if the parties do not reside in close proximity to one another. Getting a child to school on time can be a problem if one of the parents resides far from the school. It is not in a child’s best interests to have to wake up extremely early to accommodate a parent who chooses to reside a distance from his/her school. If a parent truly wants to have equal time, the child’s needs must come first.

A child who has both parents in his/her life will derive a benefit, but only if the focus of each parent is the child and his/her needs.

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