Out with new backpacks and lunch boxes, and in with Chromebooks and iPads: Fall is here but this year, back to school does not mean back to normal.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many public and private schools have chosen a remote learning environment for students. For children with divorced parents, the struggle of living between two houses is more real than ever.
Whether you are new to sharing custody or have a have long-standing difficult co-parenting relationship, the challenges of remote learning present an excellent opportunity to find common ground and set your kids up for success this school year. Consider these topics and questions with your co-parent to avoid problems and miscommunications, and to develop agreed upon rules and practices in both households.
- Confirm that you and your co-parent are identified on enrollment forms, with correct and current email and cellular telephone numbers, to ensure you both receive all school provided information via any school listservs, email, text messages, or direct correspondence from your child’s teachers.
- Create shared digital storage (Google share drive, Dropbox, etc.) for critical log-in details, class and assignment schedules, and other notes or documents related to your child’s schooling to provide you and your co-parent with immediate and easy access to all the same information. Doing so will better enable each of you to problem solve quickly if an issue arises during the remote school day or after hours. When in doubt, if you receive information from the school that impacts your child’s remote education, forward it to your co-parent and save it to the shared storage space.
- Freely share information with your co-parent about what is working in your house and what is not – e.g., does a break at the end of the school session before homework begins work best?
Pre-pandemic, going to school provided structure, stability, and consistency during the day for many children, particularly kids who live in two places during the week. To recreate that structure and develop a consistent routine, despite remote learning, work with your co-parent to establish a “school-day” schedule that applies in both houses.
Details might include the start and end to the day, defined periods for studying and homework, and breaks. Consider how the school-day schedule compliments the other schedules in your house, including your work-from-home schedule if one applies.
The same school day schedule in both houses will provide your kids with the routine they crave and take any guess work out of their day.
Is your child taking one device back and forth or do they have a device in both houses? The easiest solution for your child is likely having a device in each house and the same device/set-up in each house. Less to transport between houses, the same remote learning set-up in both houses, and no set-up time, means getting down to learning quickly with less stress.
If this is not an option for you and your co-parent, discuss what the set-up is in your respective houses and understand if anything has to travel back and forth. If equipment has to travel, confirm that your child has it with them before they go to the other parent’s house.
Some parents are hiring tutors for a combination of in-person and/or remote tutoring to provide one-on-one help for their kids in the remote learning environment. If you and your co-parent believe your child will benefit from tutoring, talk with each other about whether the tutoring will be in-person, remote, or both, and how often it will take place and where.
Unplugging is more important than ever. If the whole school day is online, what are the rules going to be for non-school screen time? Will you and your co-parent have an agreed upon rule about your child’s access to their cell phone during the school day? Discuss whether you can agree upon certain parental control settings on your child’s devices to dictate what they have access to and when, regardless of location. Share parental control log-in details for each device.
There is a lot to consider now that your home is doubling as a school. With a few brief conversations with your co-parent, you can make a huge difference in your child’s experience this school year — regardless of whether their classroom is in their room or your living room. Bonus — it will make your new dual role as parent and teacher less stressful too!