For co-parenting families, there is an extra layer of complexity for all things involved with back-to-school. As a co-parenting coach and Collaborative Family Law attorney who is also a mom and stepmom to five children in their late teens and 20s, Robin offers real-world tips to help guide parents who have divergent planning styles.
By Robin M. Mermans, Esq. of ROAD to RESOLUTION
It’s that time of year again and for co-parenting families, there is an extra layer of complexity for all things involved with the back-to-school season. From shopping for school supplies and preparing for the new year to meeting new teachers and coordinating your child’s schedule, it takes a lot of patience, communication, and compromise – especially when parents have different planning styles or opposite personalities when it comes to urgency.
As a co-parenting coach and Collaborative Family Law attorney who is also a mom and stepmom to five children in their late teens and 20s, I can personally and professionally relate with parents who have divergent planning styles. I’ve worked with many co-parenting partners where one parent is an expert planner and the other is more go-with-the-flow. Planning is challenging enough – especially during the back-to-school season – but when co-parents have vastly different planning styles, there are tools and approaches that can help:
Set-up a “Kid” Email Account
Believe it or not, email is a great method for co-parenting communication. A colleague of mine in the co-parenting space, Dr. Tara Egan with Egan Counseling and Consulting, recently recommended this method for clients and I think it’s brilliant. She suggests that each parent will create an email account to use only for communication related to the child/children. When you set up these accounts, lay out some guidelines and expectations for emailing, like having only one topic per email or how to title the subject lines. Tara recommends being pretty specific in the subject line such as “Ella’s YMCA Soccer, Fall 2023” or “Kid’s Dentist Appt 10/23/23 at 4pm” with supplemental information in the body.
Download a Co-parenting App
In today’s tech savvy world, there are plenty of scheduling apps that can sync with calendars on your phones, laptops, and other devices. There are also several apps (OurFamilyWizard, WeParent, Cozi, and FamCal) geared toward co-parents that have been wildly successful for my clients at ROAD to RESOLUTION. Both parents can be responsible for inputting events and plans; however, if one parent is a super planner and handles all registration and coordination, perhaps the other parent can be responsible for inputting the data into the app.
Capitalize on Each Other’s Strengths
When it comes to planning, take advantage of your co-parenting partner’s strengths and let go of their faults. This can be hard, but if you spend time focusing on the other parent’s weaknesses or perceived weaknesses while hoping that they’ll change, it will only frustrate you and make things even harder. Instead, work with the talents within your co-parenting family and not against them. This can include everything from creating schedules and handling sign-ups to volunteering at school and helping with homework. Assigning tasks to each parent is a great way to make sure all parents, even stepparents, are included in your child’s education and activities.
Hire a Co-Parenting Coach or Counselor
If you and your co-parent still find that it’s difficult to communicate respectfully about your children due to an on-going communication issue or each parent’s different communication style is having a negative impact on the child, it may be time to involve a co-parenting expert. As a trained co-parenting coach, I use a child-centered method that prioritizes the wellbeing of your children while helping to implement and maintain a co-parenting communication plan that works.
Note: This feature is intended to be informational only and shall not be construed as legal advice.
Robin M. Mermans is a collaborative attorney, certified mediator, and co-parenting specialist. She owns ROAD to RESOLUTION, a divorce mediation and collaborative family law firm, in Charlotte. With her unique perspective as an attorney, mother, and stepmother, she is an expert in shared parenting solutions and co-parenting guidance. She is committed to using her personal story and passion to help her clients save time and money, while avoiding unnecessary emotional turmoil during their divorce journey and on their road to resolution.