Celebrating Your Child’s Graduation As a Divorced Parent

Its that time of year… graduation season.  When your child is graduating, whether from high school or college, you are likely to feel tension or stress in experiencing this milestone with your Ex.  Try not to let your feelings, past or present, toward your Ex get in the way of your joy for your child.  Here are some simple tips for getting through the event with your emotions intact:

1.  Take the initiative and contact your Ex in advance:  If you know your Ex or soon-to-be-ex will be attending the graduation or celebratory event, see if you can agree not to discuss the divorce or any emotionally charged issues such as financing for college, or who was there for all the late-night projects during school.  Chances are you have already argued these issues ad nauseam, or you will have plenty of time to iron out the details of the issue later.  Just agree to grin and bear it.   Put a smile on your faces for your kid’s sake.

2.  Reassure your child of your well-being.   Parents often pretend that their kids don’t know about their resentful feelings toward the Ex; but the reality is, all too often, the kids have heard the snide remarks or have felt the animosity.  Don’t let your kids think they should not celebrate just because it might cause you angst.  Take the time to quietly reassure them that they have a right to be proud, a right to be happy, and a right to expect family to peacefully celebrate with them.

3.  Respect the unexpected Guest.  If your Ex has a new spouse or partner, its natural to feel uncomfortable.  But if your former spouse wants to bring along their new partner, you really don’t have the authority to say no.  Going solo can feel isolating, so bring along a friend or other relative to stand by your side to help you feel more secure.

 4.  Celebrations big and small:  If a graduation party is being planned, try to negotiate a neutral location to eliminate any perceived “home turf” advantage.  Ideas include restaurants, banquet halls or parks.  If that isn’t feasible, then host a smaller event separate from your Ex.  Be sure to keep the guest list limited to your side of the family or your friends.  Do not overlap the guest list or try to out-do your Ex on the grandiosity of the event.  A small intimate celebration can sometimes be more enjoyable and can even keep costs down.

5.  Understand that your emotions are normal.  Know that feelings such as regret, resentment, remorse, anger or sadness are all normal emotions for divorced couples.  Those feelings soften over time, but significant milestones for your children are likely to dredge them back up.  Expect them, try to manage them, and maybe have a plan in place in case you become overwhelmed.  Sit near the door for easy exit to get some air or a cold drink.  Pull yourself together and go back in.  It will be over soon enough.

The above tips work just as well for weddings too!  Enjoy the season and these precious milestones!

For more information or to schedule a consultation, call the office 609-904-3020.