Ex Etiquette: Back-to-School Organization

Ways to coordinate custody when your kids go back and forth

But overall, when you're divorced, you can use a slightly altered version of the same organizational tips you might have used when you were married.

For example, each year you meet your child's new teacher. Now that you're divorced, send a letter to the teacher that explains your living situation, who the players are and who is authorized to pick up your child. Let the teacher know that you need two of everything — one for Mom and one for Dad.

Here are more suggestions to help divorced, separated or single moms better co-parent their children.

  • Email the teacher. Establish an email relationship with your child's teacher to get fast answers to questions and check on assignments. If you are a noncustodial parent, this is an excellent way to stay apprised of your child's progress.
  • Fill out the contact card. To make life easier on everyone, don't play games with the school contact card. Make sure all contacts are listed and up to date.
  • Coordinate house rules. It's not uncommon for divorced parents to think of this as "imposing your will on my house." And both resent even the smallest suggestion. That's not the point. You are coordinating efforts to simplify your child's life, not your ex's. With that in mind, if the rule at Mom's is "Clean your room on Sunday so you can be organized for the week," try to make that rule universal in both homes.
  • Establish a routine so kids know what to expect. When married, one parent is usually the primary caregiver, and this parent is the one who checks backpacks, makes lunches and oversees homework. But, when parents divorce, both become responsible for these things — and that can take some getting used to. Staying organized by anticipating the transition from house to house will only make your child feel more secure. A few tips:
  • — Put the backpack in the same place for easy morning exits.
    — Do homework in the same place and at the same time.
    — Make sure kids have adequate supplies, from notebooks to pencils, at both homes.
    — Be sure that both parents review the child's notebooks.

  • Coordinate clothing. To prevent arguments, agree from the start if your child's clothes will go back and forth between houses or if she'll keep clothes at both Mom's and Dad's home. Same goes for sports equipment like soccer shoes. Help your child stay organized by having enough clean clothes for the week and laying clothes out the night before. This will eliminate last-minute "Mom, I left my favorite jeans at Dad's!" And it will help your child plan her daily wardrobe as she gets older.
  • Plan after-school pickups. Again, communication is key. Be clear from the start about carpool plans (the when-and-who-will-pick-up details). Establish a method of informing each other of changes; no one wants to see a child waiting at school because of parental miscommunication. Anticipate problems and look for solutions — and make sure they're always in the best interest of your child.
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