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Dealing With Your Ex on Special Occasions

How to celebrate your kids' special days together with your ex.

Being Civil continued...

If both you and your ex are going to attend an event, it's crucial that your children see that the two of you can get along. Thomas suggests thinking of your ex as a co-worker and then treating him or her accordingly.

“It should be a business relationship you strive for,” she says. “Think of how you relate to a co-worker. You are friendly, kind, and validating. But you don’t hug and you are not intimate. Mothers and fathers who are separated should not hug or kiss -- that is not part of a business relationship.”

Stahl agrees. Even if you feel perfectly at ease with your former partner, signs of intimacy can be misinterpreted by children.

“You should be civil and warm when appropriate,” he says. “Anything else would only confuse your kids.”

Thomas says that simply smiling at each other, making eye contact, and saying a quick hello is enough to demonstrate to the kids that you can be civil to one another. After you’ve made your pleasantries, it’s OK to move to the opposite sides of the room.

Irreconcilable Differences

So, what do you do if you and your ex can’t stand to be around each other? Learn to take turns, Stahl says. For example, if Mom goes to this week’s Little League game, then Dad will go to the next.

“If you can take turns, then you will only have to be together for major events,” Stahl says.

For those, you may have to ask for help. If your child is celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or a First Communion, Stahl recommends that you talk to the rabbi or priest about how you can both be a part of the ceremony and avoid coming to blows.

And remember: just because you are both present for your child’s celebration, you don’t have to sit together. In fact, Thomas says it is better for your children to see you separate but happy rather than together and miserable.

“At a graduation, for instance, it’s good for the kids to have to wave in one direction for Mom and another for Dad so that they see happy faces in both directions,” Thomas says. “It reminds them that while they may have two homes, they have one family.”

Reviewed on November 22, 2011
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