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Co-parents can help their kids as they head back to school

Back-to-school time can be a relief in many ways for parents. However, if you're a separated or divorced parent, this time of year requires some planning and likely extra communication and cooperation with your co-parent. This is especially true if this is the first fall since the break-up. Following are a few things to keep in mind to make things go more smoothly for you and -- most importantly -- to minimize stress on your kids.

Let the appropriate people at your children's school know about your family situation. Colorado school employees know that families come in all varieties. However, you can save your children from some awkward situations if you let their teachers know that you and their co-parent aren't together -- particularly if they knew the two of you as a married couple.

If your kids are still adjusting to the break-up, you may want to ask their teachers and counselors to keep an eye on them and let you know if they note any issues. School officials should know which parent(s) to contact in an emergency or if there's another issue. It may also help them to know what the custody arrangement is.

Let your kids' teachers know how you want to handle parent-teacher conferences. Some parents are able to participate in them together. Others have such a strained relationship that it's more productive to meet with teachers separately.

Presenting a strong, united co-parenting front is essential during the school year. Kids should have the same -- or at least similar -- expectations in both parents' houses regarding getting their homework done, bedtime and mealtimes. This isn't the time to compete for the "favorite parent" award. Your kids' academic achievement should come first.

If you and your co-parent are sharing custody of your kids, you should both be aware of their homework assignments and projects, particularly when they're at your home. There are plenty of co-parenting apps available that allow parents to share this and much other information about their kids without having to communicate directly.

As the school year progresses, if you believe that changes need to be made to the "allocation of parental responsibilities," as it's referred to here in Colorado, that you and your co-parent initially decided on, talk with your family law attorney.

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