Family occasions can be fraught with difficulties during or after a relationship breakdown. But when your children are involved – and particularly when they are centre stage – the potential for serious tensions shoots right up. Our advice is to take it step-by-step…follow these tips to help you through:
1. Put your child and their wishes first.
The most important thing is that your child has an enjoyable day, and that they are not worrying about how their parents will behave towards each other during the event. Children in general want to share this day with both Mum and Dad, so if possible try to overcome your own feelings. For the space of those few hours in the church, agree to be civil to each other and try to make it possible to meet outside the church, enter together and sit together for the service.
2. Plan ahead
If you are the custodial parent, inform the other parent of all the necessary details about the day, and about the services which may take place in the build up to it. Pass on the information and keep the other parent as involved as possible. Would Dad like to choose the suit for his son ? Would Mum like to pick the dress ? Both parents should have a role and be involved. Approach your child’s other parent, and try to agree arrangements for the day as far ahead a possible. Ten let your child know, as this will take the worry and responsibility from them – just because they don’t express their fears and worries doesn’t mean they are not there…..
3. Make arrangements for photographs
Every child will want a photograph to remember the day which has both of you in it. If this can’t be a joint photograph, then make arrangements for two sets to be taken, to allow for photos of your child with each parent. Be particularly sensitive about placing a new partner in photographs, in place of your child’s other parent.
4. Consider extended family
These milestones in children’s lives are equally important to their extended family, especially grandparents. Try to include both sets of grandparents, aunts, uncles in the day, in some way if it is a big family occasion. When parents separate, children suffer a huge loss of their extended family relationships, so be mindful of that in planning these days also.
5. Make it two celebrations?
If it’s just not possible to spend the day together, then consider attending the service together, and planning two separate celebrations with each side of the family for your child. It doesn’t really matter who goes first! What matters is that your child gets to spend time with the entire family, and to understand that their special day is being celebrated with both their parents.