From birthdays to anniversary parties, weddings and so much more, almost every month there is yet another joyous occasion to celebrate.
However, holidays and events for divorced parents can create a moment of panic. Inevitably the first thought is: do I have my kids that weekend? and then a frantic calendar check follows.
Whether or not you have your kid that weekend, special occasions bring many potential stressors that are unique to divorced parents.
Below are some helpful tips to use as you navigate around the possible landmines and make it easy on everyone to have your child attend the events.
1: Ask the kids if they want to go, then talk to your ex.
First thing to do is ask the kids if they want to go. Before you go to the other parent and start rearranging schedules, make sure your children want to attend and ask them how they feel about changing weekends. Your kids may be involved in sports or have other weekend plans that may be more important to them than the event.
If their answer is yes, then it’s time to communicate with your ex.
Remember, how you ask for something is more important than what you’re asking for. Stop, breathe and think about the best possible way to ask for the weekend and or more time with the kids.
Try to think about your ex and how the change could impact his or her life in a negative way. Consider if there is a reason they may not want to accommodate your request and be prepared to help with a solution. Remind your ex about how the children will benefit from the event by being with their friends, families and loved ones. Let’s face it: getting what you want is all in the presentation of how you ask.
2: When your kids are invited to an event through your ex that is scheduled during your weekend.
When your ex-contacts you and asks you to switch so the children can attend the event, consider this before you answer; when an invitation is extended to your child, it means someone wants them to be part of their celebration. Your response isn’t going to impact just your ex and your child, but a third party. So really think through your answer.
Be honest with yourself and ask; is there any real reason to say no? Sometimes we are tempted to say “no” just to be spiteful or get even with an ex who isn’t always the nicest person to deal with.
Being divorced twice, I know what it feels like to simply want to say NO. But getting even with your ex is not in the best interest of your children. Special events are opportunities for your children to bond with friends and family, they help your children feel loved and part of a community.
Saying “no” as a matter of principal against your ex only gives your child the short end of the stick. I encourage you to do your best to accommodate the request and, if switching weekends is just not possible, at least offer to make arrangements for your child to attend regardless.
3: What to wear? What to Give? How to Get There?
You should also communicate with your ex to make sure all other details are covered. Your child will need appropriate clothing, a gift to give and secure transportation. Regardless of where the child is staying that weekend, do not assume the other parent is taking care of it all. For your kid’s sake, communicate!
Never underestimate the power of attire, especially for young adults. If your children do not have the appropriate clothing then discuss with your ex about who will take them shopping. Also, discuss it with your children. Sons may want their dads to help them pick out a suit, even if it’s for their maternal grandmother’s birthday. Likewise, daughters may want their mothers help with finding the perfect dress for an event on their father’s side. Again, I implore you not to use this as an opportunity to get even with your ex. Look at the shopping trip as an opportunity to bond with your child.
Gifts can get tricky. Money is a touchy subject with everyone, married or not. The key to preventing it from becoming a big issue is to keep your perspective.
If it’s YOUR family’s party, such a 75th surprise party for your aunt, I recommend you pay for and manage the gift.
If it’s a friend of the child’s, discuss with your ex to agree on a price point and include your child on deciding what to give. It’s always a good idea for children to be part of the gifting process. Doing so allows you to use the party as a teachable moment for your children about gift giving and life’s niceties.
As a mother of a son who has anxiety, I learned early on to make sure every detail regarding an event is covered, especially transportation. I include my son in all aspects of planning so that he knows who is taking him, who is bringing him home, and sometimes an estimate of how long the event should last. I know it sounds a tad over the top, but children of divorced parents have a lot of extra things to keep track of (their weekends, what clothes at which house, etc.) so they can be easily overwhelmed. I say it’s better to over communicate with your children than to have them worry about making it to a party on time.
Remember, life is about making memories, enjoying the moments and celebrating family and friends. Let’s make sure your children experience the joy of all the events life has to offer.
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