You’re probably anticipating your child’s graduation from high school, college or graduate school with some mixture of joy and melancholy. It’s a time to celebrate your child’s achievement, but it also means they’re taking one more step toward adulthood and away from you.
If you’re recently separated or divorced, you may also be dreading having to be around your ex or soon-to-be ex, possibly their family and maybe their new significant other. Moreover, you’ll be around people you likely knew as a couple as well as strangers. How do you maneuver this event if your feelings about this person are still raw?
Focus on your child
First, remember that this is your child’s big day. If you both focus on them and not each other, things will go a lot more smoothly. You want your child to enjoy their day and not worry about whether their parents will get into a fight or otherwise make things uncomfortable for everyone.
Don’t make any special requests of your child, like getting you seats as far away from your co-parent as possible. They may not have that option. If you have to sit together, make the best of it. If all you can manage is a “Hello,” that’s fine. Don’t take whatever bait your ex might throw at you. It may help to invite a sibling or close friend for support – just not one who will get angry on your behalf.
Finally, remember that people aren’t paying as much attention to you as you think they are. They’re focused on their own child. If no one causes a scene, they’re even less likely to notice you.
The same rules apply to any pre- or post-graduation gatherings. If you and your co-parent are at a party or dinner together in Reston or Herndon, don’t stay longer than you’re comfortable and keep the drinking to a minimum.
This is just the start
Remember, too, that if you want to be invited to future graduations, weddings and other events in your child’s life, you need to show that you can be civil to one another. Remember that co-parenting doesn’t end when your child becomes an adult.
If you’re still in the divorce process, it may even help to put some agreements in place to share financial help with school, weddings, grandchildren and more. This can help minimize some of the tension when you celebrate them as co-parents.