If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse have children, you’ll be in each other’s lives long after you have to worry about coordinating pick-ups from swim practice and sleepovers. You won’t have to see each other as much, but the events where you do will likely be larger.
Holidays, graduations, weddings, grandchildren’s birthday parties, funerals, and more will likely put you in the same space. The last thing you want is for your kids to stop inviting you because they’re afraid of you making a scene.
A few tips for keeping things civil
That’s why, whether your children are in grade school or grad school (or long past both), it’s best to learn to navigate family events where your co-parent is present. Here are some tips:
- Treat your ex as you would a business colleague: Greeting them cordially is fine, but there’s no obligation to share a hug and kiss. That might just confuse people, anyway.
- Avoid alcohol: You might feel like you need it to relax, but you might not stop when you should (especially if servers are making sure you never have an empty glass). Then things can get ugly.
- Have a plus-one: If it’s appropriate (and it usually is), bring someone with you. A sibling or friend can give you someone to talk to if things get awkward, help you feel less self-conscious, and help your worst instincts from getting the better of you. If you have a significant other, that’s fine, but it’s best not to present someone as your date whom you barely know.
- Sit separately from your ex: If you don’t think you and your ex can peacefully sit through an event in close proximity, choose another area. Just make sure that your kids know where to look for you if you’re in an audience.
Above all, focus on your child, grandchild, or parents rather than your ex. People aren’t looking at you nearly as much as you think they are – at least they aren’t if you don’t give them a reason to do so.
If you and your co-parent still have young kids and you’re having difficulty navigating being together civilly at regular events like soccer games, then you might be able to work some provisions into your parenting plan to help you both stay involved in your children’s activities.