When Parents Clash
Saving Your Sanity
Knowing your parents and talking with them about potential
issues ahead of time can help things go more smoothly at special events, says
Buchanan. "Don't avoid it," she tells WebMD. "What if they start
fighting over the front pew at your wedding and ruin the entire day?" She
says you're better off broaching these topics ahead of time -- when people have
time to think it through and prepare themselves emotionally -- than crossing
your fingers and hoping for the best.
Beware Unrealistic Expectations
Sometimes it's not just the parents. Unrealistic expectations
on the child's side can also wreck havoc. "Sometimes even adult children
fantasize that their parents will get back together again," Goldscheider
says. For example, if your parents can hardly be in the same room, expecting
them to dance together at the wedding is a sure recipe for disaster -- and
probably a fantasy you need to let go of, she says. "In some cases if they
are in the same room and are behaving themselves, that has to be enough,"
Eth also warns of falling into the fantasy of the perfect
event. "It's a setup for disappointment," he says. "Don't do that
to yourself." Working with things as they are rather than wishing things
were different will make the event easier for everyone, he says.
Pick Your Battles
If getting your parents together in one room is difficult,
choose those moments carefully. For milestone events, such as weddings or
graduations, let them know you want them both there and be straightforward
about it. Goldscheider suggests something like, "This is my event and
whatever issues you have with my mother (or father), I need you both at my
wedding. I love you and want to make this as easy for you as possible. How can
I help you feel comfortable?" But for other events such as birthdays and
holidays, it may better to celebrate with your parents separately, says Eth.
"There will always be another Christmas or birthday," he says.
By taking these suggestions and tailoring them to particular
situations, the adult child of divorced parents can leave the role of victim
behind. While they cannot solve their parent's problems, they can change how
they react to them. And for Lindsey and Nigel, it's a goal they strive toward
Michele Bloomquist is a freelance writer based in Brush
Prairie, Wash. She writes frequently about consumer health.