Co Parenting Through Graduation

In the next few weeks those Friday night lights will take on the most special meaning: graduation. Your senior in high school will sit in those stands, under the glare of the lights and the setting sun, and experience the culmination of their high school career. Undoubtedly, the past academic year has been fraught with college stresses, teenage drama, and the looming and vague feeling of your child transitioning into adulthood. If you are divorced, things were probably more complicated. Let’s sit down and have a brief discussion about co parenting during this special evening, and how you can help make this event all about your child -- not about the divorce.

First, let’s address family issues. You cannot do anything about those members of your family who have taken up the offense for you, or those who just love drama. What you can do is remind them, because it’s darned important, to speak nicely of your former spouse. Tell them that this child, of whom they are so proud, is half of the other parent as well. To criticize the parent is to criticize the child. That sounds like a guilt game, but it’s the truth. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling your family to be quiet if they can’t say anything nice. Tell them to be civil if they can’t be cordial. Your child will greatly appreciate this because they can enjoy their families and both of their parents if everyone will behave for just one evening.

Second, let’s talk about finances. I realize I’m a little late here, but communicate and work together on all the costs associated with graduation: pictures, dinners, shoes, outfits, memorabilia (class rings look like miniature engagement rings now). Your kid deserves to have a few outings with classmates, to have quality pictures made, to have shots of the diploma moment, and to look nice for all the parties and events surrounding the night of graduation. Please, please don’t think about your former spouse in all of this -- how they handled the money during marriage doesn’t matter at this point; how they handled money matters during the divorce doesn’t matter right now. What matters is fairly and honestly sharing the costs. I didn’t say “split” because that still sounds like maybe everything is shared in halves. Let’s be real, folks, one spouse usually makes more than the other one. Be kind to the one with less. You are really being kind to your child, and when your child realizes this (because at some point soon they will) it will do wonders for your relationship.

Co parenting, even for those who had an amicable divorce, is difficult even during normal periods of the year. Big events and life changes offer much more stress, and the challenge to communicate and balance fairly the things that concern your child makes co parenting even more difficult. Remember that your child will graduate from high school once. Once. Help make that evening memorable by stepping back and letting them shine.