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. It is important to put your child’s enjoyment of their day first, and try to remove competition between parents for attention, or for time. Our advice is to take it step-by-step. So, follow these tips to help you through:
Put Your Child and Their Wishes First.
The most important thing is that your child has an enjoyable day. They should not be 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. Try to make it possible to meet outside the church, enter together and sit together for the service. Children can carry a lot of anxiety ahead of this special day, if they worry that their parents will argue.
If you are the custodial parent, inform the other parent of all the necessary details about the day. Include details about the services which may take place in the build up to it too. 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 as possible. Then 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….
Be Sensitive About 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 plan for two sets to be taken. This will 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.
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 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.
Make It Two Celebrations?
If it’s just not possible to spend the day together, then consider alternatives. You could attend the service together, and plan 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 your child can then also see that their special day is being celebrated with both their parents.
If you don’t already have a clear understanding of how the day will be paid for, do try to discuss this ahead of the day. Costs such as clothing for the child, and the meal, will in most cases be shared by the parents. Agree this in advance, so you avoid upsetting your child by arguing over payments at the end of the meal. These issues are for you both to agree or decide, not for your child to worry about.
If you need advice or support on any of the issues raised above, please call Deirdre Burke on 01 637 6200 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.