September 1, 2016/by Shari Bornstein
After enjoying the weekend, many people experience dread on Sunday nights in anticipation of all that Monday brings: the start of the workweek and the hectic routine that goes with it. Parents of school aged children experience their own form of dread. Too often, there is an issue with a child not completing a school project that’s due on Monday morning. For parents who live apart and transition their children to the other parent on a Sunday night, completing school projects becomes a lesson in Stress 101.
Too often the co-parenting dialogue sounds like this:
“You’re just the fun parent.”
“You leave all of the hard work for me.”
“My time is so limited as it is.”
“If you told me about the project instead of being so nasty, I would have worked on it.
“Susie/Johnny never told me about the project.”
When parents are torn between the grind of daily life or enjoying time with their children, who wouldn’t opt for spending as much fun time as possible with their kids? But parenting is not just about “fun time” and doesn’t reflect real life. Just like adults, kids have responsibilities, too. Homework assignments have to be completed even if they interfere with precious playtime. These projects are learning lessons. School projects often expand knowledge about a subject matter. They also teach time management, an invaluable skill for the grown up working world. Many children who transition between parents’ homes learn this lesson early so that they can prevent the eruption of conflict between their parents.
Homework assignments that are not completed during weekend parenting time become the subject of motions to modify. Parents who enjoy a full weekend of parenting time with a return to school on Monday morning don’t want to lose precious parenting time because of an allegation that schoolwork is not taken seriously.
Parents must create a learning environment during individual parenting time and avoid adding stress to the co-parenting relationship. Below are some suggestions to help.
During the week, talk to your child about short-term and long term homework assignments so that you can arrange your weekend parenting time accordingly. These conversations keep you engaged with your child and set a good example for time management. Check your child’s backpack or assignment notebook for information. They usually contain a lot of information, especially for younger children.
Many schools now have an app or website that allows parents to stay on top of assignments. Check it frequently to keep yourself up to date with your child’s daily school routine. This can be very helpful for parents who don’t see their child every day because of the parenting plan. Communicate with your child’s teacher and let the teacher know that you want to be made aware of assignments. There is no better compliment a parent can receive than a teacher reporting that he can’t tell from which home the child arrives at school because assignments are completed in a timely manner.
Use a weekly email agenda with your co-parent to record school information and projects that will involve attention from parents in both homes. If you have an alternating weekend schedule, put the information in the weekly email to alert your co-parent as soon as you become aware of it. Write whether you will purchase supplies or how you will address payment. Include information about when you will work on the project with the child during your parenting time. If you can’t finish the project with your child during your parenting time, do as much as you can and let the other parent know in a business like text or email what remains to be completed.
If you possess a particular skill or tools that would help your child complete a project, offer to assist even if it is not your parenting time. Perhaps your co-parent would be open to modifying parenting time for this. Highlighting a parent’s skill is also a good way to compliment your co-parent in front of your child. There is no financial sense buying two sets of tools when they might sit idle and never be used again. The money can be put to good use for something else for your child.
If your child is not transitioning to the other parent’s home before the project is due, take a picture of the completed project and have your child share it with the other parent. There’s nothing better than co-parents sharing pride about a project well done.
We all have to live with deadlines and that is stressful enough. Don’t turn your child’s project into a battleground with your co-parent.
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Shari Bornstein is an attorney and mediator.