5 Co-Parenting Strategies for Navigating Kids Extracurricular Activities
Navigating kids extracurricular activities with your co-parent can be difficult. Try these 5 strategies.
Co-Parenting is not always a smooth road. In fact, it has some bumps and potholes along the way, right? One bump is navigating your child's extracurricular activities. Because as children grow, they discover new hobbies and interests. And that's fun and exciting for them! But - when trying to add new activities to an already complicated shared custody schedule, it can feel overwhelming and downright impossible.
What if your co-parent isn't on board with the new activity? What if they refuse to take your child to practices/lessons on their custodial day? You might wonder how your child will play sports if they miss their game every other weekend. Or you might feel like your child will never get to truly participate in what they want to!
These are normal worries that we all deal with in co-parenting. While these are bumps in the road, there are ways to get around them. And there are ways to find a solution that works for everyone!
Here are 5 simple strategies to use next time you navigate extracurricular activities with your co-parent
1. Pitch it well
Remember, this is about your child and their new interests, so keep it about them. Always tread lightly and don't push an agenda. Most likely, your child is excited about this new extracurricular activity and already talking about it, so start there. Pitch the idea by focusing on the specifics: your child is interested in something new and wants to sign up for lessons, classes, or a team.
Best case scenario? Your co-parent might already be aware of it, making for an easier discussion. Tell them you want to support your child's interests and are hopeful the two of you can make it work. Provide some information on when and where the lessons/classes will take place and offer to answer any questions they have. Ask for their input and suggest ways for the two of you to share the required tasks. It takes time and planning to buy the gear, sign up for the classes, pay the fees, and arrange drop offs and pickups.
Remember, by focusing on your child's desire to participate, this keeps it all about supporting his or her interests.
2. Encourage the other parent to get involved
Once you agree on the extracurricular activity, give them a few options to get involved. Ask your co-parent if they want to take your child shopping for gear/supplies.
Ensure they're added to any roster or parent text/email chain, ask if they want to volunteer or bring snacks, and introduce them to other parents if you are both there at the same time. (Yes, that last one may be difficult, but it's in your child's best interest to have your co-parent feel comfortable. That way, they'll continue to show up!)
Need help with this? Here is some advice for dealing with a high conflict co-parent.
3. Use the TalkingParents app for communication
Shared custody can be made easier by adding lessons, practices, and games to our Shared Calendar so no one misses anything important! In the app, use the Message section to share information and attach any files such as team roster or game schedule. This minimizes conflict and keeps all the important information organized and in one place.
4. Show up for your kids
Remember, even if the extracurricular activity falls on your non-custodial weekend, you still get to attend! That's the best part of extracurricular activities – you can root for and support your child on days you wouldn't normally see them.
Once my son started tee-ball, I had an eye-opening moment. I realized that I could cheer him on and see him EVERY Saturday throughout the season! It was a parenting win and reminded me that there are always silver linings in hard situations.
So don't be discouraged if you haven't experienced that yet – it will happen eventually! And as a reminder, don't feel obligated to sit next to your co-parent when attending extracurricular activities. Do what you are comfortable with, and remember, you are there to support your child!
5. Step back and re-evaluate
Finally, if you and your co-parent can't agree on the activity, table it for a while. Explain to your child that the activity doesn't work with your current schedule, but you'll revisit it in a few months. They might be disappointed, and that's normal. Suggest a few other options that work for your schedule on the days you have your child.
Sometimes a "no" isn't necessarily a "no" – it's just bad timing. So don't get too discouraged, your co-parent might need a bit of time before they accept any new activities that change their parenting schedule. Wait a few months, then revisit the topic with your co-parent. They might change their mind, or the activity might change to a different day that works better for your schedule.
Remember that what seems set in stone usually isn't
Children grow, their interests change, and co-parenting relationships evolve. That road that looks so bumpy right now will eventually flatten out. And at some point, you'll wonder how you went from negotiating extracurriculars like tee-ball to sitting in the passenger's seat as your teenager learns how to drive! Need tips on navigating custody changes? Check out this article.