high net worth divorceSpring is the season of graduations and the various rites of passage that go along with it: proms, parties, and planning for college and/or starting jobs. As proud as we are of the class of 2024, celebrating the accomplishments of our young adults as they head into the world might be accompanied by certain feelings of excitement and anxiety knowing they are embarking on a new chapter. These feelings are normal—but they might be more pronounced for parents experiencing a divorce, whether new, recent, or even long in the past. There are ways to navigate such uncertainties when graduation day is at hand.

Because graduations bring together extended family to public events, it is likely that you will run into your ex at your child’s graduation ceremonies. Granted, the pain of your separation or divorce might still be fresh and the wounds not yet healed, but the single most important thing to keep in mind is this is your child’s big day. However you may feel about your ex, do your best to put on a brave face for the sake of your graduate during the celebratory time. Granted, some ex-spouses can co-parent easily and without any significant issues, but the fact is that graduation can be difficult for any divorced parents, especially if the reasons for the marital dissolution remain hurtful for one or both parties. 

This doesn’t mean that at your child’s graduation you need to be overly positive and friendly around with your ex—or their new partner—but you owe it both to yourself as well as your child to keep the day cool and cordial. Start the day off with meditation, yoga, or another physical activity. Write down any negative feelings towards your ex you may be experiencing: Getting it down on paper will both make you feel better and short-circuit the desire to say such things to their face at the ceremony. During the graduation ceremony and celebratory events, lean on the family and friends who attend. They will share their support and pride, and help you find joy in the day. Ultimately, graduation is a wonderful milestone for you and your child, you should embrace the excitement and accomplishment you feel for your child. 

Also, be ready for the possibility that your graduate may ask for photos of their parents together. While this may be difficult for you, it is important to acknowledge your child’s requests and not internalize the moment. Taking a picture with your child and ex will be a nice keepsake for the graduate and it will mean a lot to them. Additionally, you can also take pictures of yourself and your child together and capture the joyous day with a photograph that you can print and frame in your home.

During the events, if your ex is of a mind to stir the pot, resist the urge to engage. Either walk away or find someone else to talk to. Again, such awkwardness is temporary, and no matter how bad your divorce may have been, try to keep in mind that the events will only last for a few hours and ultimately it is a day that emphasizes celebration, so try to focus on your child and the pride you feel for them. 

Whether you have been divorced for years or are in the midst of a separation, it is crucial that you make graduation day about your child first and foremost. Life is difficult and stressful, and you may be angry with your child’s other parent—but let it go, even if just for today. Even if it’s uncomfortable for you to be around your ex, make your child’s graduation a day they will look back on with fondness for years to come. 

Rebecca L. Palmer, Esq. is a Family & Marital Law attorney practicing in Orlando, FL. She may be reached at rebecca@rlplawgroup.com.