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How divorced parents can minimize graduation day conflicts

You and your ex-spouse have managed to co-parent your children minimal conflict -- in part by not being around each other any more than necessary. Now you're oldest is about to graduate from high school. You not only have to spend the day together, but you must do so with family, fellow parents and others observing you. To make matters worse, your co-parent's significant other or new spouse will be there. How do you prepare yourself to deal with all this?

First, remember that this is your child's day. They shouldn't have to spend a moment worrying that their parents will cause a scene or make things unpleasant or uncomfortable.

Prepare yourself mentally. One therapist recommends giving some thought to the things your ex does that annoy you or make you angry. Then you can be ready to deal with them gracefully. She also suggests having an exit strategy. If you feel like you can't control your emotions or temper, be prepared to step away (which is different than storming off) until you've cooled down.

Give some thought to seating arrangements. Most grads would prefer to see their family sitting together. However, if you think that's a recipe for trouble, arrange to sit some distance apart. Just make sure your child knows where you'll both be so that they can look for you.

It's best if you and your co-parent can discuss things like seating arrangements and guests so you can minimize surprises on the big day. If your child wants to have a party, discuss that as well.

If one of you is hosting the party, it's nice if the other parent can attend. However, if you can't interact peacefully, it may be best not to invite them. Sometimes, choosing an outside venue is better than having the party in one of your homes. Don't depend on having a few drinks to relax you and make being around your ex bearable. Chances are, that will only make things worse.

If there are any questions about who's paying for things like your child's graduation present(s), the party, cap and gown rental and other expenses, work those out with your co-parent ahead of time. They may not be detailed in your child support or other divorce documents. If you find yourselves in conflict over graduation expenses, you may want to add some detail to your documents before your next child graduates.

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