Parenting after divorce is challenging. Quite apart from differences in parenting approaches, one of the first and most obvious challenges is what to do about family celebrations and other events that are centered around your children. Most couples don’t find this easy at first—they’re still struggling to renegotiate their relationship from being a spousal one to being co-parents. Many couples do find it gets easier with time—the pain of being around the ex dulls and priorities change.
My present guest, Elizabeth says there have been several occasions that could have called for her and her ex to be present together but somehow, so far it just hasn’t worked out. Here’s Elizabeth:
I feel like it’s a God thing. I don’t know if I’m not ready or we’re not ready, but we’ve been divorced a year and a half now. We’ve had a grand-child. There have been a couple of Thanksgivings. It just sort of worked out in quirky kind of way, where it hasn’t worked out.
We went to the hospital at different times to see the grandchild and for her first birthday, I celebrated with my daughter and granddaughter a couple of days before. We were all together at a vacation house and I was going to be at a conference when she had the birthday party. My ex went to that so it hasn’t worked out for us to be together.
I can certainly be in his presence. I would certainly have emotional help before and after through friends, but I could definitely be there without being a basket case. I know that I could handle that.
My son was going to run the New York Marathon and he decided not to for whatever reason. That would have been another coming together. There hasn’t been a funeral, there hasn’t been a wedding. So, it’s like the path has been open and clear for us not to have to get together for whatever reason.
I have two guidelines for family celebrations – make it comfortable for you and make it comfortable for your children.
Can you attend the same event as your ex? If that is going to be too difficult then is there an alternative way for you to celebrate, such as the example that Elizabeth gives? If you and you’re ex will attend the same event, it doesn’t mean that you have to sit together, or travel together for example. Would you feel more comfortable if a friend or family member went with you, for moral support?
In an ideal world, what would make the event most comfortable for your child? Children do not want to see their parents brawling in public but if you and your ex can sit together at an event, such as a recital, you make it so much easier for your child – they don’t feel torn having to choose which parent to go to first. If you’re putting your child’s birthday party together and they would like their dad to be there but you’re not comfortable having your ex at your new home, consider hosting the party at another location.
Making it comfortable for your ex is not your responsibility. That’s their responsibility and it’s their responsibility to discuss it with you. Your responsibility is to listen to their request, be willing to compromise in a way that will work for both of you and not to deliberately or intentionally make it so uncomfortable for your ex that they would not want to attend even though your child would like them there.
What adjustments have you made to make celebrating family milestones comfortable?
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