If you are the parent of a child who will be graduating this spring, congratulations! However, if you are a separated or divorced parent, and you and your ex can’t be in a room together without starting WW3, you both owe it to your child to call a truce: to suspend any lingering divorce hostilities before, during, and after the graduation ceremony.
If your divorce was/is very bitter, you’ll need to reassure your child that both of you will be on your best behavior. Remember that this event is the culmination of years of hard work for your child, and she deserves to look forward to her graduation day with excitement – not with dread that her parents will get into a public screaming match, or that one of you will refuse to attend if the other is going to be there.
Here are 10 tips for separated and divorced parents to ensure a happy graduation day for their child:
- Remember that this is not your day! It is your child’s special day, and he deserves to have only great memories associated with his graduation day.
- Do not make your child choose which one of you will be “allowed” to attend. Reassure her that you’ll both be there to support her – and make sure that both of you show up for the event.
- The person who paid the most towards the child’s education does not get to dictate who will – and who won’t – attend the ceremony.
- Leave new love interests at home. If you have a new romantic partner, don’t bring him/her to the ceremony. Your child has little or no relationship with this person, so there’s no reason to bring them along – aside from wanting to rub your ex’s nose in your happy new relationship.
- If stepparents have played a role in helping to raise your children, then they should also be welcome at the ceremony (space permitting).
- If the two of you can’t be civil for five minutes, find out if it’s possible for you to be seated in different areas during the ceremony. If that’s not possible, and your ex provokes you, refuse to take the bait. Remind yourself that your child’s happiness is more important than “winning” a fight with your ex.
- If your child requests a photo with both of you (at the same time), be gracious and agree. Think only about how proud you are of her so the camera will record a genuine smile on your face. Then ask for a few pictures with just you and your child as well; these are the ones you’ll display on your desk or wall.
- If you or your ex won’t be able to be polite to each other after the ceremony, consider holding two separate celebratory meals/parties. If extended family will be in from out of town for the day, consider brunch with one parent and dinner with the other.
- If finances don’t permit a grand gesture, give a graduation gift from the heart – like that “retro” jean jacket you wore to your first rock concert 20 years ago or the well-loved leather knapsack your kid has always coveted. And the best gift you can give your child is the gift of peace between you and your ex.
- Remember that this is not your day! This point is so important that it bears repeating: graduation day is all about your child’s happiness. Repeat it to yourself whenever you feel your nose shifting out of joint or your temper rising.
Finally, think of this graduation as a dry-run for when your child announces she’s getting married. You and your ex are going to have to figure out how to be in the same room at some point – or risk missing out on your children’s weddings, the birth of your grandchildren, and other milestone events. So make sure there’s no drama on graduation day – just a class act!