It’s the time of year that every separated or divorced parent dreads: your child’s graduation.
Parents and grandparents are invited to see their kids sing songs, recite poems and celebrate the end of another school year. The milestone comes with a unique set of stresses: Who do you invite? Where does everyone sit? How do you keep your emotions in check?
“Every expert will tell you that it’s important to keep the child’s best interests in mind,” says Bella Steinberg-Sinukoff, owner of The Kinder Connection in Toronto. “This is a time to celebrate their achievement and it’s important to keep the focus on them.”
How exactly do you do this? Based on years of teaching and personal experience, Bella shares some advice for how to successfully get through your child’s graduation day.
1. It is important that both parents attend the graduation ceremony or performance. Invite grandparents if you’re comfortable, but it may not be the time to bring new partners. This could make it awkward for all parties, taking the focus away from your child. Talk about this with your ex in advance: be sure that you’re on the same page and avoid any awkward, unexpected scenes.
2. Sit together (if the situation allows). Depending on your situation (how recently the relationship ended, why the relationship ended) this may seem like the most uncomfortable thing you could do. But it is so important for your kids to feel like their parents are at least getting along.
My kids’ dad and I make a point of this. We wave to our kids, take photos and talk about how cute or shy they are. Our kids notice these tiny signs, like where we’re sitting, our body language and facial expressions. They want to see their parents get along. We keep the mood light, we focus on our kids and we smile. (Bella gave us an A for our effort during our boys’ recent graduation!)
3. Show an interest in their work. Ask your child for a tour of their class, admire their artwork on the walls and take the time to say hello to their teacher and thank them for a good year.Graduation is the time to celebrate your child’s accomplishments. So be sure your issues with your ex take a back seat and you put your kid from and center.
It’s important for your and your ex to be there for your child. They’re your number one priority after all. So even if you have to adopt a “grin and bear it” mentality, it’s for the best. Good luck and happy graduation to all the kiddies out there!