“When is Johnny’s baseball game? I need to know the schedule. Does it conflict with some of the other activities he is telling me he wants to sign up for?”
“Susie is consistently late for her piano lesson because we don’t know when Bobby’s soccer game is over.”
These are common co-parenting complaints. Trying to manage children’s busy schedules is made all the worse when communication between parents is strained and coordinating schedules becomes more complex than a simple phone call. Some parents manage scheduling through email, but that can also provide a venue for anger to spill through. The existence of the Internet has made it possible for co-parents to organize their children’s lives, reducing the amount of direct contact they must have while they work on smoothing the conflict between them.
For a nominal fee, parents can use a variety of websites to keep track of doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences, team schedules, birthday parties, homework, expenses, and more. These websites provide a structured format and minimize the amount of information that has to be exchanged during times when children are going from one parent to the other—often a time of stress for everyone when the relationship between co-parents is unhealthy. For those who experience ongoing conflict, websites can provide an electronic record of what information was given and when. Some parents have arrangements so they do not have to exchange children directly, but pick up and drop off their children at school or other venue.
The use of scheduling websites is also a means to protect children from becoming unwilling messengers used by conflicted parents to avoid talking to each other. It is a stressful job for children: both knowing that their parents cannot talk with each other, and perhaps being the recipient of a parent’s reaction when given difficult news or a check for the wrong amount is delivered. At a time when children should be focusing on their friends, schoolwork, or just about anything else, they are put in the untenable position of messenger. The phrase, “Don’t kill the messenger” applies just as easily when it is the child’s emotional life that is at stake.
These programs are also useful for any parents—it is not only divorced parents who benefit from the ability to help organize busy families. These programs range from simple to more complex. The computer savvy can use them to share files, photos, videos, and more. Others can use them basically as a calendar, appointment reminder, and expense tracker without all the other bells and whistles.
These programs also function as a way to minimize the problem of changing or swapping weekends or other days. Most of the sites make it easy to see what the new schedule will look like in a calendar view. This can help avoid problems like, “I said yes before I realized this meant missing three weekends in a row and a swim meet.” Additionally, the calendar function makes it much easier to see how the holiday schedule will work years down the road.
When the goal is to minimize conflict to protect your children, consider using the Internet as one of the tools in your toolbox.
Sites to check out:
Our Family Wizard (ourfamilywizard.com)
Talking Parents (talkingparents.com/home)