Co-Parenting: How to Survive the School Year When Your Child Lives in 2 Houses

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We don’t judge children who live in 2-homes. We don’t judge parents whose children live in 2 homes. There is nothing inherently wrong with a lifestyle that moves children from one home to another according to varying schedules. In fact, based on family court statistics, children who live across 2 homes are more likely to have positive and supportive interaction with 2 loving parents than are children who grow up in single-home, single-led households.

That’s why, in our ‘Increase the Co-parenting Peace’ coaching program, we give parents the needed tools to create a positive relationship regardless of who lives where.

But you cannot ignore that there are idiosyncrasies that must be addressed when a child lives in 2 homes throughout the school year. With planning, and attention to detail, 2-home children can benefit from the love and attention of both parents….

So how does this work?

Before school starts:

  • The parent – presumably the parent with primary or sole custody in the legal sense – who submits the demographic, medical, dental and related forms should also give the other (non-custodial) parent a copy for their records.
  • Include the other parent’s information just as you would if you were married. This is critical to the inclusion of both parents when decisions are made regarding your child. Don’t be the parent who leaves the FATHER:__________ or MOTHER:_______ line blank on any form. There are no amoebas in your home, so please don’t go there. Additionally, we all recognize that there are some educators – lets be honest – who may prejudge based on a child’s living situation. There is no reason to give them unwarranted ammunition.
  • The pick-up list, similarly, should be made available to the other parent BEFORE being given to the school. Any concerns, biases or other issues should be addressed BEFORE someone comes to pick up little Onya and all hell breaks loose.
  •  In some situations, particularly where the co-parenting relationship is less-than-stellar, there may be a need for a DO NOT PICK-UP list. Again, such a list should be addressed BEFORE submission to the school.

During the school year:

  •  Make a formal request and provide the necessary documentation so that duplicate copies of school communications are sent to both homes. Report cards, honors certificates, notices of detention or suspension, field trips, all should be sent to both homes (or children should be given multiple copies when requested).
  • Have books, notebooks, supplies, computer or pad – or some type of digital device – at both homes. Children should not have to adjust their learning style based on the day of the week. Before you start yelling, yes, I know, one parent probably has a different financial picture than the other. (That’s a different blog post). Not a big problem; just adjust schedules so the child has time to get to a library, a friend’s house, anywhere they can efficiently and appropriately study and complete their schoolwork.
  • Be mindful of the other parent’s schedule. It isn’t realistic to assume that parents will agree on concepts like bedtime and curfew. Allowing your child to go to bed at 1 AM on school nights when he/she is with you (while knowing that the other parent maintains a 10pm lights-out) will probably earn you brownie points. It will also make your child a hot mess in school the next day. Trust me! Is parental agreement preferable? Yes. Is it possible? Yes. Is it mandatory? No, because many parents aren’t there yet. That’s why we offer coaching and mediation service at KidsNeed2. In the interim, discuss and (try really hard to) compromise on parenting issues so your children are not forced to engage in schizophrenic behavior at an early age.
    •  “Do your best to maintain consistent academic guidelines and expectations between houses. Be flexible, but realize that the greatest causes of academic failure In 2-home children are (1) emotional concerns and (2) inconsistent academic expectations and guidelines.“ Taken from my e-report, “7 Co-parenting Steps for Academic Achievement”, read the full document for additional information.
    • Share any news you receive with the other parent. Emergency parent meeting? Share. Rescheduled IEP (Individualized Education Program or Individual Education Plan)? Share. Calls from teachers or coaches or administrators or other parents? Share. The more a child realizes that both parents are informed, the greater the chance that the child will adhere to the rules.

The bottom line is that living in 2 houses allows a child access to both parents in -- we hope – harmonious fashion. Even when that is not the case, always, always, put the child first. Understand that children mimic what we do, not what we say.

Cooperation and compromise are skills that children will need in school, in higher education, on their jobs, and in their families.

Let it start as they move between the houses of the people who profess to love them.