Attending school activities after divorce can make you uneasy, especially if you know there is a good chance you'll run into your ex during these events.
By Tracy Achen, Divorce Coach
No matter how old your children are in, there will be a lot of these activities that come up over the years. From plays and concerts to awards ceremonies and conferences, school events tend to keep children and their parents busy. And these don't stop just because you're divorced. If the thought of seeing your ex in any of these settings makes you tense, here are a few tips to make it easier.
For your children's sake, it's important that you attend these activities and are able to carry on in a normal fashion. If you can't get rid of the hostility you feel toward your ex, don't make it obvious how you feel in front of your children. If you're currently having co-parenting problems with your ex, save the discussion for later so you don't ruin this special occasion for your child.
Being able to mutually support your child will make the activity all that more memorable for your child. If you're able to get along with your ex, offer to take pictures during the event (even get shots of your child with the other parent). And then send copies to your ex so everyone can enjoy the good memories.
Nothing is more important to a child than to have his or her parents support and cheer them on during their school activity. If you are the custodial parent, it's important to keep your ex informed about upcoming school events. You can do this informally through phone calls and texts if you give the other parent enough notice.
Another idea is to make out a calendar with all the important dates, times, and locations written down. This way there will be no misunderstandings or accusations of not being informed about the activity. And it also leaves the ball in your ex's court on whether to attend or not.
If you're a non-custodial parent who is not being informed about all the various functions, there is still hope. Most schools have a website and calendar that lists all the important functions that are coming up during the year.
You can also ask the school secretary if she has a copy of the scheduled events. While you're at the school, get in touch with your child's teachers and instructors to find out if they have a schedule of important dates and ask to be included in any meetings that may come up. It may take a little extra effort on your part, but your child will appreciate it in the long run.
As emotionally trying as it can be to see your ex at the various school activities, it's important to maintain a friendly relationship for the sake of your children. If you've been able to move past the bitterness of divorce and are on friendly terms, you might even consider sitting near each other during these events. Children have the uncanny ability of picking their parents out in a crowd. And being able to see Mom and Dad in the same proximity can help relieve a lot of their tension.
But what if the sight of your ex makes you want to throw up? In these situations, it's probably better if the two of you sit in separate sections to watch your child. This way you can enjoy your child's performance without having to worry about causing a humiliating scene for your child.
It's also a good idea to sit in separate sections if you ex brings his new girlfriend along. Ex-spouses have a tendency to flaunt the fact they are in a new relationship, and there is no sense having to endure their public displays of affection if you don't have to. If you run into the two love-birds accidentally, by all means be cordial and then head on towards your destination.
If you find it awkward attending these activities by yourself (especially if your ex is attached), consider inviting a friend along. This will help divert your attention away from your ex, give you someone to talk to, and make the activity more enjoyable all the way around.
What about the various parent-teacher and school conferences which come up during the year? Ideally, both parents should attend these activities together so the teacher only has to go over the information once and can get feedback from both parents at the same time. If you and your ex can remain civil during these types of situations, make every effort to attend together.
But what can you do if you don't have an amicable relationship with your ex? In this situation, it's best to set up separate meeting times for each parent. Explain to the teacher or school counselor that it will be more productive and easier for everyone involved if two separate conferences are held. Most teachers and administrators realize how ongoing conflict leads to unproductive discussions, and will often accommodate your request for separate meetings.
Most importantly, make these activities about your child and not about your divorce. On top of handling school activities after divorce, you will probably face other challenges as you learn to co-parent with your ex. The following articles can help: