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Navigating back-to-school shopping as co-parents

Those ads for back-to-school sales that are starting already can be particularly stressful for newly separated or divorced parents. If you’re facing your first new school year – or at least the first one where your kids won’t be going to school via Zoom – since you and your co-parent split up, determining how school expenses will be divided can be challenging. It can be especially difficult if you haven’t yet finalized your child support agreement.

Whether you’re shopping for new clothes, backpacks or dorm room décor, it’s typically best if both parents can be involved. That doesn’t mean you both have to go on each shopping trip together. Those outings can test even the most solid marriages.

However, you can split up the shopping by child, store or type of merchandise. By both being involved, you can show you’re kids that even though you’re no longer together as a couple, you’re still a parenting team that’s interested in their school and extracurricular activities.

Choose your battles when it comes to school shopping with your ex

If your co-parent lets your child choose a piece of clothing you hate or a lunch bag you know will fall apart quickly, let it go. There are plenty of bigger issues to worry about, so not sweating the small stuff is best for everyone – especially your kids.

It’s best to work out your total budget for back-to-school items and how you’ll split it before you begin shopping. It’s also best if you and your co-parent can be on the same page regarding how much you can spend on higher ticket items. This isn’t the time for one of you to be the “Disneyland” parent who lets the kids buy the most expensive basketball shoes and the other one to bemoan the fact that their other parent doesn’t give them enough child support to afford anything that’s not in a clearance bin. Child support in any form isn’t something to be discussed around your kids.

Remember how excited you were to see your friends again at the start of each new school year. Imagine what it must be like going back to school after the past two school years were thrown into disarray. Back-to-school shopping is just the beginning of maneuvering your children’s school lives as co-parents, so it’s a good time to learn to work together.