Divorced Parents Must Call a Truce for Child’s Graduation Day

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According to Divorce Magazine's Editorial Director, separated or divorced parents who can’t be in a room together without starting WW3 need to to call a truce if they have a child who will be graduating from high-school or college this spring. Here are 10 tips to help these warring parents suspend lingering divorce hostilities before, during, and after the ceremony on their child's graduation day.

Graduation Day

Children deserve to look forward to graduation day with excitement – not with dread that their divorced parents will get into a public screaming match.

Divorced parents need to figure out how to be in the same room at some point – or risk missing out on their children’s weddings, the birth of their grandchildren, etc. So make sure there’s no drama on graduation day – just a class act.

To all those parents with children who will be graduating this spring, congratulations! However, if the parents are separated or divorced, and they can’t be in a room together without starting WW3, they owe it to their child to call a truce: to suspend any lingering divorce hostilities before, during, and after the graduation ceremony.

“If the divorce was or is very bitter, parents will need to reassure their child that both of them will be on their best behavior,” says Divorce Magazine’s Editorial Director Diana Shepherd. “Remember that this event is the culmination of years of hard work for this child, and she deserves to look forward to graduation day with excitement – not with dread that her parents will get into a public screaming match, or that one parent will refuse to attend if the other is going.”

Here are 10 tips for separated and divorced parents to ensure a happy graduation day for their child.

1)    Parents need to remember that this is not their day. It is the child’s special day, and he deserves to have only great memories associated with his graduation.
2)    Do not make the child choose which parent will be “allowed” to attend. Reassure her that both parents will be there to support her – and make sure that both parents show up for the event.
3)    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.
4)    Leave new love interests at home. If one parent has a new romantic partner, the new partner should not attend 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,” says Shepherd.
5)    If stepparents have played a role in helping to raise your children, then they should also be welcome at the ceremony (space permitting).
6)    If the two parents can’t be civil for five minutes, find out if it’s possible to be seated in different areas during the graduation ceremony. “If that’s not possible, and your ex provokes you, refuse to take the bait,” Shepherd advises. Parents need to remind themselves that their child’s happiness is more important than “winning” a fight with the ex.
7)    If the child requests a photo with both parents, be gracious and agree. Parents should try to think only about how proud they are of their child so the camera will record a genuine smile on their faces. Then each parent should ask for a few pictures alone with their child; these are the ones they’ll frame for their desk or wall.
8)    If ex-spouses are incapable of being polite to each other after the ceremony, they should 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.
9)    If finances don’t permit a grand gesture, give a graduation gift from the heart – like that “retro” jean jacket Mom wore to her first rock concert 20 years ago or Dad’s well-loved leather knapsack the kid has always coveted. And the best gift is the gift of peace between the child’s parents.
10)    Parents need to remember that this is not their day. This point is so important that it bears repeating: graduation day is all about their child’s happiness. Parents should repeat this to themselves whenever they feel their noses shifting out of joint or their tempers rising.

Finally, separated or divorced parents should think of this graduation day as a dry-run for when their child announces she’s getting married. Ex-spouses who are also parents need to figure out how to be in the same room at some point – or risk missing out on their children’s weddings, the birth of their grandchildren, and other milestone events. So make sure there’s no drama on graduation day – just a class act.
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Launched simultaneously Divorce Magazine in 1996, DivorceMagazine.com is one of the oldest and most respected websites devoted entirely to divorce-related issues. The magazine and website both offer practical help and information about divorce-related issues – from child support to visitation, mediation to litigation, divorce recovery to dating after divorce. The magazine and website are owned by Divorce Marketing Group, which also publishes Family Lawyer Magazine and FamilyLawyerMagazine.com, as well as a number of other related publications and websites.

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Diana Shepherd
Divorce Magazine
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