Summer is often a time for major family events, such as
weddings and graduation days, but celebrations can be marred
– even ruined – if divorced or separated parents are unable
to put their differences aside for the occasion.
The more recent the break-up, the more likely that emotions
will run high, but even one-time couples who split up years
ago may still find it difficult to play "happy families".
This is understandable, yet it is extremely important for
estranged or divorced parents put on some kind of unified
front for the sake of their children.
If you're going to be in this position over the coming
weeks, you really need to give some thought to the occasion
in advance. Simply resolving to "go with the flow" through
gritted teeth isn't likely to be very successful.
Those of you who enjoy a civil, even amiable, relationship,
with your ex-partner would be wise to have a frank
discussion how both anticipate the event panning out –
especially in terms of logistics. For example, will you be
sitting next to each other in the university hall or church?
How will it work if you take your new partners along? Are
you both comfortable with having a series of cosy family
photographs taken? Ideally, invite your children to join in
the discussion – their preferences are just as, if not more,
important than yours.
As with so many things in life, it's the little things that
can cause the biggest problems – so it really does make
sense to go through every aspect of the big day to ensure
embarrassment, discomfort and misunderstanding are avoided
If your relationship with your ex is acrimonious, it is even
more crucial to plan ahead. Resist the temptation to use
your child as a mediator, as this may cause them additional
stress and detract from the celebration. Instead,
communicate with your former partner in writing or through a
disinterested third party. Underline the fact that it is
your child's day – not an opportunity to score points off
one another. It's also useful to focus on how proud you both
are that your child is graduating or getting married and how
keen you both are to support them, not just on the day but
in their future lives. It is this that is important – not
how miserable you are since your ex went off with someone
Remember that behaving civilly isn't the same as playing
happy families. You don't need to engage your former
spouse's new love in deep conversation. A brief exchange of
pleasantries will suffice.
Focus, too, on the fact that however difficult it's going to
be to stand alongside your ex, the occasion is just one day.
You may not be able to enjoy it, but you can ensure you
survive it – and survive it with honours!