Even if you've divorced your spouse, you'll always have a connection through your children. This is especially true during special occasions for your kids, including high school graduation. Tensions might be high between you and your ex, but coming together to support your grad will probably mean a lot to your child, especially if you can be civil during the ceremony. Prepare yourself for the encounter and remember that above all, you're there for your child and your child alone.
In an article at PsychCentral.com, marriage and family therapist Marie Hartwell-Walker suggests that you prepare for spending shared-child time with your ex. Define the ways that your ex can get under your skin and plan your time at the graduation, including an exit strategy. That way, if you feel yourself getting annoyed or angry, you have a way to cool off or take a time-out so your grad's day isn't ruined.
While it would be excellent if both you and your ex could sit together, it might not be possible. The book "Ex-Etiquette for Holidays and Other Family Celebrations" suggests that exes don't have to sit together, but should notify their grad exactly where they are sitting so he can look for them while on stage. Your ex might also bring a partner along with him. Remember that his partner likely wants to come to show support -- not to taunt or bother you. Be grateful that your grad has so many loved ones who wanted to attend.
Even if you sit on opposite sides of the event, you'll likely have to interact with your ex in some capacity during the day, whether it's during pictures or while celebrating your teen's accomplishment. Take care that you make the experience as pleasant for your grad as possible. BonusFamilies,com's resident psychologist Jann Blackstone warns that you should never put your child in the middle of your divorce -- don't speak negatively about your ex during the event and try and be as genial as possible when interacting with each other.
If your grad has a family party planned to celebrate his graduation, you might have extended periods of interaction. First and foremost, avoid drinking, suggests Hartwell. It could impair your judgment and ruin your careful preparation for a civil day. Then, know when it's time to leave. There's a good chance that spending a day with your ex -- and perhaps his partner -- is draining. That's why it's a good idea to have the party some place other than your home. When you're ready to leave, you can bow out gracefully.
- PsychCentral.com: Graduation Day: A Primer for Badly Divorced Parents
- Ex-Etiquette for Holidays and Other Family Celebrations; Jann Blackstone-Ford, Sharyl Jupe
- BonusFamilies.com: Addressing the 10 Most Common Coparenting Pitfalls
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images