Many divorced couples are under the assumption that once a divorce is over, they will no longer have to engage with their former spouse on a regular basis. While the couple may no longer have to share finances or live in the same house, if they have children, they will likely have to actively co-parent, which involves communication, flexibility, and a good attitude toward potentially uncomfortable situations.

Committing to actively co-parenting with a former spouse, although challenging, can prove vital for a child’s well-being while adjusting to the new status quo. After the holiday rush is over, many parents breathe a sigh of relief as their child returns to a regulated schedule that involves less communication and teamwork with their former spouse. However, to many parent’s surprise, there are numerous events throughout the year in which presenting a cohesive front with their former spouse is important – especially with young children.

Co-parenting not only includes collaborating with your former spouse on drop off schedules and doctors’ appointments, it also involves attending children’s plays, recitals, and classroom parties in a way that makes a child happy and comfortable that both parents were able to attend. Valentine’s Day is no exception. Many schools hold a Valentine’s Day classroom party that parents are encouraged to attend. If parents are not prepared to promote a united front, both parents attending a classroom function could pose an awkward situation for any child, especially if the parents obviously don’t get along. Additionally, a child may become upset if only one parent can attend their classroom event because of the contentious nature of their parent’s relationship. These situations can create a loyalty bind for the child. This can make a child confused and feel as if they talk to one parent, the other will likely be upset and angry with them. Not only will the child feel internally conflicted, but their friends will likely start asking uncomfortable questions.

How do you deal with these potentially awkward and upsetting situations in a way that promotes your child’s best interest? Commit to active co-parenting and presenting a united front when at a school function. Active co-parenting involves encouraging your child to engage with your former spouse, acting cordial with your former spouse at events, and putting aside your differences for the sake of the child. Maintaining the sanctity of the family unit can make events fun and stress free.

Although the thought of spending Valentine’s Day with a former spouse can sound frightening, having the ability to put differences aside and attend a child’s school event can really make a difference for your child.

Morgan L. Stogsdill, Partner