For many families, back-to-school is the biggest transition time of the year!  There is some sadness that summer has come to an end but also excitement and eagerness to settle back into routine.  For children, back-to-school can be exciting as well, but often accompanied by feelings of anxiety and nervousness about what to expect.  For parents, this can be a time of tension, and financial stress.

Here are some tips for making the transition easier on everyone in the family:

Have a plan

Sometimes parents follow a different or more flexible parenting schedule over the summer months. Then, in September, the schedule may change as children return to school.  If you have a Separation Agreement, this is generally your go-to document where you have the details of the parenting schedule organized.

If you do not have a Separation Agreement, it is important to have discussions with the other parent about what time-sharing schedule you are going to follow.  Work out in advance the pick-up and drop-off specifics for children.  Some things to consider:

  • How will children get to and from school when they are with each parent?
  • Does something different happen on days when activities are scheduled?
  • Will daycare or before and after school programs be needed?

To help reduce any anxiety around transitions, let children know the plan you and the other parent have come up with for them. Let them know when they will be with each parent and how they will get to and from school or daycare.

Share expenses

Back-to-school is expensive!  Backpacks, new outfits, multiple pairs of shoes, and school supplies. For older children, sometimes laptops and cellphones may need to be purchased.  Most back-to-school items need only be purchased once as children will bring their things back and forth between their two homes (often with a little assistance from parents).  It is important that the children’s items are treated as the children’s items. Children should be made to feel like they can freely bring their things back and forth between their two homes.  Of course, there are exceptions where having duplicate items might make life easier and backpacks lighter.

For many parents, their Separation Agreement already sets out a plan for how these types of back-to-school costs will be shared.  If you do not have an Agreement or there are expenses that are not specifically mentioned in the Agreement, a good rule of thumb is to start by discussing the expense with the other parent before it is incurred.  No one likes to be surprised with costs that they were not expecting.


Finally, and it might seem overly simple, but the best thing you can do to help make life easier for you, your co-parent, and most importantly your children, is to communicate!  If you are going to be late or have an unintended change of plans, let the other parent know.  If something was overlooked or needs to be discussed in more detail, set up a time to talk to the other parent.

Focusing on direct communication between parents is the important piece here as this keeps your children from becoming communication messengers between you (ex. “can you tell your mother…”).

Have a plan in place for how information is going to be shared between parents around important dates or events at school, scheduling activities and extracurriculars, and family gatherings.  A shared calendar can be a great option to help stay organized and avoid overscheduling.

Best wishes with back-to-school!

Kathleen McLean

If you are looking for assistance putting together a parenting plan or Separation Agreement, give us a call or email me at  We would be happy to go through your options with you and the resources available.