Children keep coParents connected through a variety of events. It is important to create a satisfying experience for the child while attending these events.

From the child’s point of view, the family was together and now is not. These events occur through school, health care needs, extracurricular activities and life-cycle events. These common settings maybe filled with memories and patterns that may no longer fit. Let’s find our way through the discomfort and awkwardness with persistence and experience, reaching a more satisfying way of sharing public space with respect for each other, in order to place the focus on the children.

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Taking steps to un-couple, strengthen parent minds and accept the current situation helps to manage emotions while attending an event. Some situations may trigger difficult emotions. Developing a calm mindset and logistical coping strategies ahead of time will assist with enjoying a child’s event. Adjustment, acceptance, and some measure of comfort will arrive, once the coParents are committed to their individual work of moving on with mutual respect of each others’ emotions.

Tips for attending events as coParents

1) Respect the physical and emotional distance your coParent wants and needs from you. If your presence creates discomfort, maintain a healthy and respectful distance from your coParent at public events.

2) When it’s time to gather at a function, determine the seating arrangements with grace. Try to maintain composure while determining which parents sit by the child. Your children’s events are not a time for a turf war over former relationships with teammates’ parents. In time, there will be plenty of space for both of you to relax.

3) When you’re the on-duty parent, encourage your children to greet their other parent. Give them guidance: “There’s Dad — go on over and say hi, and I’ll see you back here in a few minutes.” Practice generosity by encouraging the children in attendance to move freely between the two of you.

4) For the off-duty parent, gracefully accept your secondary role to help reduce tension and ambiguity for your child. Redirect your child back to their duty parent for permission to wander amongst the event.

5) Address your child openly and lovingly with healthy boundaries for the situation. A big hug, congratulations, or whatever is indicated and then help your child move back to the duty parent while assuring them that you’ll see them again soon.

6) At the end of the game, the duty parent can allow a few minutes for the non-duty parent to quickly recap the event. However, this is not a time for lengthy discussions or planning for the future. It’s a respectful few moments, particularly if the duty parent is waiting to load up the car.

 Edited story taken from the book, The Co-Parents’ Handbook by Karen Bonnell



About Karen Bonnell

Karen has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples, and families facing transition, loss, stress and change. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Karen has been Board certified and licensed as an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner since 1982. She served on the faculty of University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University & Seattle Pacific University before beginning full-time private practice in 1984. She continues to be a provider of Professional Continuing Education to both health care and legal professionals.

Karen served on the Board of King County Collaborative Law and Collaborative Professionals of Washington. She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and Academy of Professional Family Mediators.

Her work is found through Unhooked Books: