Being divorced with kids does not mean that you and your ex will never be in the same room again. Soccer and basketball games, dance recitals, holiday plays, and graduations are all events where you and your ex could potentially interact.
This might not be a problem in a co-parenting relationship.
But what about for those who are in a high conflict parenting arrangement, such as parallel parenting?
Attending the child’s games could spark a brand new argument, but it doesn’t have to.
When I first got divorced, I dreaded having to attend the kid’s events if my ex would be attending. I was trying to fix myself in order to make co-parenting work and had no idea what parallel parenting was. All I knew was that we were not getting along and were doing a horrible job of pretending.
I didn’t know how to conduct myself in his presence. Should I make small talk? Should I save him and his family a seat next to me and my family, common courtesy right?
Or, since he had been avoiding my phone calls, should I bring up the unresolved visitation transportation issue?
Ok, so maybe our child’s event wasn’t the time or place to bring up our issues.
Why did things have to be so awkward?
Sharing a public space with your ex when parallel parenting can be uncomfortable. But through adjusting our mindset and developing coping strategies, we can move towards a more civil interaction.
So, how does that work?
Here are some do’s and don’ts of interacting with your ex at your child’s events:
Be respectful and polite.
Though you and your ex may not get along, being respectful and polite towards him/her sets a good example for your child.
You guys are already in a high conflict parenting relationship, so respecting the physical and emotional distance your ex needs is important.
It’s not necessary to sit together.
Hopefully, in the future, you and your ex will develop a relationship where sitting together at your child’s event isn’t uncomfortable. Until that time comes, don’t feel obligated to sit together.
Encourage your child to say hi and interact with the non-custodial parent. This will help to ease any awkward feelings for everyone.
Don’t feel obligated to initiate or engage in conversation.
Attending your child’s events while your ex is present may cause a wide range of emotions for all involved.
Don’t get caught up!
When parallel parenting, you have set certain boundaries for your relationship with your ex. “Feel good” moments at your child’s events must not steer you away from those boundaries.
But if you choose to engage in conversation with your ex…
Keep any and all conversation focused on the child.
You may feel the need to bring up unresolved issues with your ex but please don’t! There is a time and place for working through this type of issue. The past is the past, leave it there until you are ready to do the work necessary to heal from it.
It’s over, now what?
Before leaving the event, give the child a few minutes to interact with the non-custodial parent. This is an opportunity for them to say their goodbyes, not a time for lengthy conversation between the two. Each parent must be considerate of each others time.
Sounds easy, right?
Critics may argue that my recommendations “stir the pot” to keep the conflict boiling.
Others may say that by using my suggestions that I am not being the “bigger” person.
When parallel parenting, being the bigger person means that you’ve learned from your high conflict relationship with your ex. It means that you’ve put certain boundaries in place. Your focus is no longer on the conflict, instead parenting the child comes first.
Do you and your ex attend your child’s events together?