Co-Parenting & Managing Extracurriculars Can Feel Overwhelming
Parents, coordinating extracurricular activities for your kids is hard even in the best of times. Throw in a few added factors that many parents are currently navigating—divorce, tense co-parenting relationships, separate schedules, and Covid-19 restrictions, and the residual stress that comes with all of that—and the grind of back-to-school extracurriculars can feel like a dreaded time pit and emotional drain.
We get it. You want your kids to thrive in the activities that bring them joy, community, stability, teamwork opportunities, and which teach them a valuable skill. You want them to have all of that and more after this past year. And really, it’s not about the extracurriculars at all; the activity itself is life-giving for you to watch—it’s a beautiful thing to see your kid find themselves through a sport, an instrument, or a hobby. It’s about the scheduling, the running around, the pick-ups and drop-offs, and the coordination that is required with your ex, who may not exactly be the person you want to see on a weekly or monthly basis at all of those events.
If you’re struggling to work through disagreements with your ex-spouse regarding the payment, scheduling, and negotiations required of youth extracurricular events, here are some helpful reminders:
Communicate Clearly, Early, and in Writing
The earlier you can loop in your ex-spouse about the extracurricular activities your child is hoping to participate in, the better. Allowing both parents adequate time to plan and discuss the impact these activities could have on finances, schedules and parenting time, the better. Who will be dropping off? Who will be picking up? Will you both be financially pitching in to cover the fee? Don’t rely on your memory for these conversations, either. It’s always good practice to keep records of these conversations in writing.
If you and your ex-spouse can’t agree on certain aspects of extracurriculars, always refer to your parenting plan for guidance. If you’re unhappy with certain terms or provisions within your parenting plan, or you feel your family has outgrown the parenting plan, you have two choices: come to a new scheduling agreement together or revise your parenting plan through the court. But remember; if you and your ex-spouse agree to scheduling terms outside of your parenting plan, and he or she revokes on their word, the court will refer to the parenting plan, not your verbal agreement.
Expect to See Each Other at Events
Your ex may be the last person you want in your direct orb on any given day, but in most circumstances, it’s to the benefit of the child to receive support from both parents if and when possible. If you do find yourself attending extracurricular events alongside your ex, a few tips to consider:
- You don’t need to sit near your ex, and if you both don’t get along, it’s okay to keep interaction to a minimum. However, remember that kids are often incredibly attune to the dynamics between their parents (you are BOTH, after all, their world—for better, or worse). To the best of your ability, remain civil and cordial.
- Having a community of support with other parents involved in your child’s extracurricular events is a great benefit to the hours of time you invest in supporting them. However, refrain from talking poorly about your ex to other parents at the events. It might feel cathartic in the moment, but the result is often one that creates division and isolation. While you may feel that your ex deserves this, it doesn’t serve your child to have one parent banned to ‘the outside’, nor will it serve your co-parenting relationship moving forward.
Remain Flexible with Scheduling
Even the best laid plans can sometimes go astray. It comes with the territory of juggling kids, a pandemic, jobs, and two people’s busy schedules. When this happens, try to remain flexible and understanding toward your ex-spouse in order to accommodate activities.
If your spouse is intentionally and consistently difficult or vindictive, or if they continually break your parenting plan agreement and make unreasonable requests, remember that there are professionals available to problem-solve alongside you. Whether it’s a therapist to help you identify ways to manage difficult personalities and come up with creative solutions to successfully co-parenting with your ex, or an attorney to help you identify if you should take legal action to modify your parenting plan, you don’t have to go it alone.
If you would like to speak with one of our attorneys about your parenting plan, or you would like to be connected with a professional from our referral network, call us at (888) 981-9511 or visit us online.