Fall brings with it a certain freedom for parents. Children head back to school, allowing parents to work full time instead of caring for the kids or to simply attend to household needs without any distractions. For divorced or divorcing parents, however, the beginning of the school year can put a lot of strain on a co-parenting plan.

Shared custody and co-parenting is typically in the best interests of your children. With the exception of situations such as drug or alcohol dependence or physical, emotional or sexual abuse, it’s almost always best for kids to have ongoing, strong relationships with both parents. With so much open schedule time in the summer, it’s easy to arrange. The more densely-scheduled time of the school year can easily strain even the most cordial co-parenting relationship.

Sports, clubs and other after school activities impact timing

You want to be with your children as much as possible. That’s completely normal and healthy. However, the older your children become, the more independent they will grow to be. Typically, children approaching their teen years will take part in a slew of after-school activities. There are sports try-outs, practices and games to attend, as well as rehearsals and plays or even debate events.

Regardless of what your children are passionate about, you should encourage them to participate and give their all to the activities they love. Doing so may require some flexibility from you and your spouse, as visitation times or custody exchanges may have to move around with little advance notice.

Always put your children’s well-being first

Although it’s easy to become defensive if a club or sports practice cuts into your parenting time, remember how important these activities are for your children’s social and mental development. In order to encourage their growth and happiness, you need to support them in all their choices, including extracurricular activities.

Instead of getting angry when a weeknight visitation gets canceled for a practice or a game, make a point of attending the game or offering to bring your kids home after practice. While you may not get the same amount of time when them, your presence will show your support. More importantly, you will be a part of their daily lives that they know they can depend on for practical and emotional support.

If you are still in the process of divorcing, this supportive and flexible behavior will make it clear to the courts that your children are your first priority. That can help you when the final terms of your co-parenting plan or custody arrangements get decided by the courts. Showing that you can compromise and work with your spouse for the best interests of your children helps make it clear what a dedicated parent you are.