Graduation season always brings a mix of emotions for parents. They’re proud of their child’s achievement, but they can’t help but be a bit sad that they’re one step closer to independence.
For separated and divorced parents, graduations are among those events where they both need to show up, get along for a bit and perhaps put up with in-laws and new significant others. They know the important thing is to not let their issues ruin the day for their child. Easier said than done, right?
Every couple’s dynamic is different. Whether you and your co-parent actively hate each other or have found that communicating as little as possible is best, you can get through this and other family milestones that will forever tie you together.
Don’t feel compelled to show more affection to your ex than you feel. However, it’s important to be civil. If it helps, think of them as that co-worker who got the promotion you should have had. When you see them at the holiday party or company picnic, you exchange pleasantries with them and their spouse. You don’t bring up old (or current) grievances in front of everyone. Focus on enjoying the day yourself and not on your ex. If they try to aggravate you, don’t take the bait.
You might not be able to keep as much distance as you’d like. If you have to sit together at the ceremony or your child is insistent on getting pictures of you all together, do it. Think of it as an extra graduation present for them. You don’t want their most enduring memory of the day being their parents fighting.
Don’t compete with celebrations
What if your graduate would like a family get-together, maybe because there are other relatives coming into town? If you and your ex can plan something together – or you can agree on who to turn the planning over to – that’s great. It might be best to have separate family events. Just don’t make your child choose which one to go to. Plan different types of celebrations for different days if possible. Again, your focus should be on what’s best for your child.
If this is your first big family event since your break-up, it will be a challenge. However, how you handle it will determine how many more milestones your child will include you in going forward.