During the divorce experience, children are forced to face the reality of their new situation. After many marital disagreements witnessed, they are forced to deal with the fact that their parents are no longer together; that they will inevitably be faced with the reality of two homes.
However, after they come to terms with the logistical issues related to child custody, they have to come to grips with how it affects things during the course of the year. They may wonder how all of this affects their school life, holidays, birthdays, games, plays, concerts, and other occasions that may draw the attention of each parent.
These situations can breed a level of social awkwardness that is forced upon children, and many divorced co-parents can make it worse with outbursts and public squabbles. This is why it is important to keep in mind the child’s perspective during these events, so that you can keep your child’s best interests in mind.
Birthdays are a special time for a child. They celebrate a child’s place among their peers and family, and they mark another year of their own maturity, which is a point of progress and significance for a child. When they are younger, a parent may refer to a child as ‘a big boy’ or ‘a big girl,’ and through a day of celebration, a child, no matter what their age, can be reminded of what it means to progress.
For a divorced child, they may have to grapple with the idea of being at the same birthday party or bringing two divorced families to the same birthday party. The uncontrollability of a variety of personalities can spell trouble for a day that is supposed to be about your shared child.
If there is enough concern that the party goers will not be able to be the mature adults that the child requires, the most viable solution would be for each parent to host a birthday party that celebrates a child’s place within the two separate families.
If your child is insistent upon having one birthday party, it is important to keep your composure and stay civil during the experience. The divorce still may be fresh, and your child may not have the best grasp of the new situation, so it is vital that his or her parents ease the child into it together.
It also is important that the party not include anyone that would make the civil tone difficult. Your child’s needs come before anyone’s feelings, and that means maintaining the polite civility your child needs on their day.
Holidays are typically kept separate. As co-parents, you may have to refer to your parenting plan or child custody agreement, in order to identify which parent gets which holiday with the children. This type of consultation may result in rescheduling specific holidays.
That can be a difficult concept for children to come to terms with. It may require explaining or require more enthusiasm regarding the holiday, such as decorating or baking. This can be extra hard if the days involved with the holiday carry religious significance, such as Easter Sunday, Eid al-Fitr, or Passover.
However, part of what your children need to adjust to is the yearly points of reference. They need to create a new routine to fit their new situation, and part of that may be through accepting that things are different now.
As a parent, it is your job to offer comfort during these difficult times. They need to know from their parents that even though they may not get to celebrate the holiday together or on the day of, everything will be OK in the end.
3. School functions
School functions, such as parent-teacher conferences, plays, concerts, or games, are a part of having a child in school. They are events that you, as a parent, go to, in order to better connect with the child’s world and to support them.
As difficult as it may be to sit in the same vicinity as an ex-spouse, you have to remember that they also are your co-parent. They are not here for your sake. They are here for your shared child’s sake, and you do not need to sit in the stands or in the auditorium near them.
You also do not need to go to the same parent-teacher conference as they do. You can schedule your own with your child’s teacher, in order to learn more about your child’s academic highs and lows. Your child’s teacher should have the level of understanding of the difficulty of the situation and offer to help accommodate.
While these types of awkward situations come up, active parents with custodial rights need to be aware of the awkwardness that a child may be dealing with among their peers. Depending on the age, children may not have the best ability to smoothly navigate the complications of the situation.
You need to be able to provide context to the social difficulties that your child brings to you and comfort them in their time of need.
If you are unable to provide that type of comfort or unable to spend the amount of time that you wish to spend with your child, you need to assess your parenting goals by contacting your family law attorney. You need to be able to spend holidays and birthdays with your child, sharing in their special moments, and by going through the legal channels, you will be one step closer to doing so.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.