Splitsville: The Best Tips To Keep Informed And Organized With Your Co-Parent

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custody calendarWelcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

I have a confession to make. Last night was visitation night at my daughter’s dance studio and I completely forgot to inform her father. It may not sound like a huge issue, but it made me feel horrible.

See, everyone other month, her dance class allows the parents to come in and watch the class. We get to see what they’ve been working on and squeal in adoration at their cuteness from the comfort of metal folding chairs lined up at the back of the room. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s still an adorable one.

Since I take my daughter to dance class every week, I rarely remember to mark down special things that will happen at the studio while we’re there. Whether there’s visitation or not, I’ll still be hanging around this studio. Visitation just determines whether I’ll be in the class room with my hands clasped at my chest or in the waiting room discussing reality TV with the other mothers.

The problem is that last night, as my daughter and I were leaving class, she asked me why her daddy hadn’t come to see visitation night. And I had to admit to her that Momma forgot to tell him. Let me tell you, I felt a guilt that I cannot describe. Honestly, my heart was like lead for the next six hours.

Separated parents have to establish a means of communication. There aren’t very many family dinners during which you can catch each other up. There’s no shared calendar hanging on the fridge to let each other know about grandparent’s day at school or visitation night at dance.

Last night, I realized that my system of random text messages as I remember things is a really horrible way to go about staying organized and informed. As our daughter gets older, she’s just going to start having more sports games, recitals and school functions. My ex and I are going to need better ways to keep up to date on our daughter’s busy schedule.

So I’ve decided to come up with some options. And I’m asking you guys, the readers of Splitsville, to let me know which one sounds the most efficient, what strategies have worked for you and what practices you want to try.

  • The Child Planner: The wonderful Tralee Pearce at The Globe and The Mail clued me in to some great new products that are basically social calendars for your kids. They have sections for a daily calendar, contact and medical information, notes home from school, and homework assignments. You hand off the planner when your child switches houses. This way, your ex can see what the little one has planned for the upcoming week, what you need to work on from school and more. It seems like a great way to keep organized. The drawbacks would be that you can’t add things to the planner when your child is away. So if you plan appointments or playdates while your child is visiting their other parent, you might forget to write them down. Also, smaller details or issues that don’t fit nicely onto a list might get lost.
  • Weekly Update: In general, drop-off is a pretty quick process. There’s a quick salutation and some kisses goodbye. You might remember to share immediately important information about allergy medicine or tonight’s homework. But once a week, meet for drop-off at a restaurant or coffee shop. Take the time to sit down and discuss whatever needs to be shared, whether its about behavior issues, soccer teams or schoolwork. This is the most personal way to share information and will probably hit on those emotional issues that don’t fit nicely into a planner. But you still might forget details and dates if you don’t have things written out ahead of time.
  • Blog It Up: I actually know a set of parents who created a private blog so that they could keep each other informed. “It’s easier because we both spend a ton of time on the computer, so we can pop over and check it anytime,” the mom explained to me. “Also,” she added, “there’s a record of things in case I need to go back and confirm a date or address later.” Because they’re dealing in blog posts, not just in an organizer, they have a tendency to write both emotional or behavioral issues and scheduling notes. The drawback she says, “You have to be committed. It is a little time consuming, so you both need to be putting time in to keep each other informed.”
(Photo: Family Wizard)