Divorce brings a lot of new situations into people’s lives — especially if you have children.
Hopefully, when you and your spouse divorced it was done in a civil manner and the children were not put in the middle. This is the ideal situation. However, we do not always get the ideal situation.
Conflicts That May Arise When You Have Children
Very often divorces are high conflict and the two of you argue over anything and everything. Usually, in these high-conflict divorces, the children are put in the middle and used as weapons. The children feel they have to choose between their mother and their father. This is a very sad situation.
This conflict usually interferes with visitations and holidays, too. Parents argue about pick-up times and drop-off times, how long they have the children for holidays, and there are often arguments about things like whether or not a child can bring toys or clothes from Dad’s house to Mom’s house. If their parents argue about everything, children quickly become sick and tired of it all.
The other factor that adds to conflict is when grandparents say negative things about the ex-wife or ex-husband. This only increases the pressure and stress children are dealing with after a divorce.
The final stressor is when one or both parents remarry or have a long-term boyfriend or girlfriend. Then the arguments — “She is not my child’s mother!” or “He is not my child’s father and I don’t want them involved in my child’s life!” — start. Also, a new girlfriend or boyfriend can cause teens to argue with their parents because they want their parents back together.
From a Teenager’s Perspective
In short, in a high-conflict divorce, children live in a war zone. They become used to hearing arguments about everything and often feel they must choose sides. At times, some children do choose sides — hoping to end the fighting or because they are so confused.
This type of divorce creates many issues for children — and I cannot cover all the issues in this post; I would need a book to do that. Most the time, teens become sick and tired of the fighting and wish their parents would stop. This way, they could at least not have to worry about what will cause the next argument.
Graduation is one issue. Parents will often start arguing about this topic, using language such as, “I paid for everything you needed for high school — and now your father wants to come?!” or “After everything your mother has done, I won’t be in the same room as her if she shows up.” And of course there is always this issue: “He’d better not bring her to my child’s graduation.”
What is a teenager to do?
New graduates have typically spent the last four years working very hard in high school. And graduation is a day for them to celebrate their accomplishments. They also usually want the people who they love and care about to be there with them to celebrate. However, how does this happen when Mom and Dad and grandparents are stating their terms about who can or can’t attend the graduation and how graduation day will go because of the divorce.
How to Keep the Peace on Graduation Day
Remember: your teenager did not get divorced; you and your spouse divorced. And even though you are no longer married, you are both still parents for your teenager and you need to act like parents — and adults. This means putting aside your feelings and issues so your teenager can truly celebrate their day — their graduation. Most parents have told their teens to stop being selfish and to think about someone else at some point during high school. Well, isn’t it a good idea to follow your own advice? Do your best to stop thinking about yourselves and your divorce and think about your teenager and how you can make their graduation a happy day.
You and your ex-spouse may need to sit down together or email one other and discuss how the two of you can put your issues on hold for one day so your teenager can have what they deserve: a happy graduation.
The two of you need to talk with grandparents too and other extended family and inform them what will be allowed and what will not. This doesn’t mean you have to act like best friends. You simply need to be civil to each other. If you don’t think you can sit next to each other at the graduation, then one of you can sit on the left and the other on the right.
You don’t have to have a joint party either. You can decide to have separate parties. The key is communicating with each other before the graduation and deciding how you can do it civilly. If you can allow your teenager to spend their graduation day celebrating their accomplishment without having to worry about what fight there will be, this will be the best graduation present you can give. You will also be teaching them a lesson about love, parenting, and relationships.
The most important thing to do is remember this is a celebration. So let your teenager celebrate and allow yourselves to celebrate with your teenager as their mother and father. Remember: the divorce ended your marriage — not your relationship together as co-parents. Do not allow your divorce to deprive you of enjoying your child’s high school graduation day with them. They only graduate from high school once.
About the author: Dr. Michael Rubino has 20 years experience working with teenagers and families coping with divorce. He is an expert in providing psychotherapy treatment for children and teenagers. For more information about Dr. Rubino or his private practice visit his website at www.RubinoCounseling.com.