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Happy Graduation? Says Who?

Yes, it’s that time of year. The graduations, weddings, sports banquets, senior nights, spring pageants, awards ceremonies…all of those beloved events that pose problems for those of us in step/blended families. We plan, we plot, we stew, we fret. Then we watch our “traditional” family counterparts bask in the joy of the occasion, while we “dysfunctionals” put on a happy face while succumbing to all of the horrors we imagined when we planned, plotted, stewed and fretted.

It’s natural to have anxiety related to special events. We put such importance on these once-in-a-lifetime occasions because they are just that—once-in-a-lifetime. Were they not of such import, we wouldn’t be fretting about them in the first place. But remember, you have had the privilege of celebrating these special occasions in your own life with your own family and friends. Your stepchild should have that same opportunity without fear of tense scenes or heated exchanges.

Keep in mind the first rule of co-parenting: put the child’s interests first.

No child ever wants to be in the unfortunate position of deciding between parents, or choosing a loyalty to one parent or the other. If you think you are putting the child in that position, re-think your motives. You may want to show up to the awards banquet because you are especially proud of the high GPA achieved under your watchful eye. However, it’s not about you. Ultimately, it’s their event. Think about how the child feels. And when in doubt, ask.

You may be asked to abstain from attending. Or you alone may have to make the choice not to attend out of respect for your stepchild. If so, express your love and support, but consider it a gift that they have a memorable day/night. Catch up with pictures and stories later so you don’t feel left out.

Keep special events special.

Often, when our children see the disagreeable parents involved, they will choose to negate the event altogether. Perhaps the invitation is forgotten or maybe “No one is going anyway.” Don’t allow the fear of adult transgressions to get in the way of your child’s happiness. Their achievements are to be celebrated, not swept under a rug because of adult pettiness. Remember, the word parent is not just a noun, it’s a verb. Parent your stepchild by showing your own maturity and love for them. Make it about them, not you.

Relax your expectations.

Perfection does not exist. Let me say it again. PERFECTION DOES NOT EXIST! You cannot control the situation but you can control your own behavior. Start from a place of love for your stepchild AND your spouse. Diffuse difficult situations with appropriate responses. Then, find joy in the experience and know that you are part of the village that created this special individual.

May you and your family enjoy these special days ahead!


While we try to teach our children all about life,

Our children teach us what life is all about.

~Angela Schwindt

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